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Dishwasher-Size, 25kW Fuel Cell In Development

Soulskill posted 1 year,11 days | from the does-it-clean-my-dishes dept.

Power 379

mcgrew writes "Forbes has an article about a new type of fuel cell that is 90% less costly than current cells at one tenth the size (making it the size of a dishwasher), with far higher efficiency than current cells. It runs at only 149 degrees Celsius (300F) . It was jointly developed by Diverse Energy and the University of Maryland. 'The first-generation Cube runs off natural gas, but it can generate power from a variety of fuel sources, including propane, gasoline, biofuel and hydrogen. The system is a highly efficient, clean technology, emitting negligible pollutants and much less carbon dioxide than conventional energy sources. It uses fuel far more efficiently than an internal combustion engine, and can run at an 80 percent efficiency when used to provide both heat and power.' It produces enough power to run a moderate-sized grocery store, or five homes. A smaller, home-sized unit is on the way. Is the municipal power plant on the way out?"

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379 comments

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More ripping off the taxpayer (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44596841)

This happens all too often at research universities. Professors develop new technologies funded by the university, then spin off a startup company to patent and exploit the technology for the Professor's personal profit, essentially stealing the initial investments and intellectual property rights from the University, which is funded by the taxpayers.

These criminals should be locked up. And besides, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The claims being made here are out of this world and are probably based on simulation using only the most ideal assumptions, then embellished to make it sound good enough for the startup company to rip off investors.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (2, Interesting)

itsybitsy (149808) | 1 year,11 days | (#44596883)

Wow, you convicted the "professors" of a crime without any evidence. What next? Executions?

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (1, Insightful)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597031)

I'll bring the rope.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (5, Informative)

the_B0fh (208483) | 1 year,11 days | (#44596973)

How the fuck is something like this insightful?! Every single line is full of bullshit, by someone who clearly have no idea how things work, and is just getting talking lines from somewhere.

If it was funded by the University, you can bet your ass the University will get is share.

For example, Google's famous PageRank patent is owned by Stanford:
http://contracts.onecle.com/google/stanford.lic.2003.10.13.shtml [onecle.com]
http://www.clickonf5.org/10824/google-pagerank-license-expire-2011/ [clickonf5.org]

Fucking moron moderators as well. Insightful my ass. You whole lot should be the ones locked up for sprouting lies on the Internet.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (1)

mug funky (910186) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597017)

this man needs the mods.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (5, Funny)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597041)

And some tranks.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597471)

tranqs

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597619)

Trunks? Come on, I can't believe everyone on Slashdot sits around at their computer typing replies, pant-less!

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (1)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597033)

Don't hold back man. Tell us how you really feel.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (1)

Ralph Ostrander (2846785) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597219)

So you think a bloom box just like this is not powering a google campus. Sorrrrrry your so wrong but this is the future. I have bought property with nat gas wells. Just for the day I can buy one. Nice to get a good compressor off of ebay now for 6k. in the mean time.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597287)

How the fuck is something like this insightful?! ... Fucking moron moderators as well. Insightful my ass. You whole lot should be the ones locked up for sprouting lies on the Internet.

Modding an AC up should "cost" two points, possibly forcing the moderator to seriously think twice about the value of the comment before doing the mod; and probably consider it should only be when the AC is making an important point that requires anonymity. If they don't like it, they can create a pseudonymous reputation like everyone else.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597479)

It is a lot more complicated than this unfortunately. At the last three universities I worked at, they all had an option to get help from the university's patent lawyers to help you file the patent correctly, and in two of those cases, they could decide to cover the fees for you too. The university would then get some percentage ownership of the patent. That wasn't the only way you could get a patent, but was by far the most common because it was easy. In certain conditions there were options to get the patent yourself, if you paid for your own lawyer and fees, and then you could get the full ownership of the patent. But there were also a lot of fine print on various projects and grants that could block that option, and it will vary greatly from university to university.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597497)

Of course it would vary from university to university, but the AC made a blanket statement and basically found every single professor guilty. That is simply stupid.

Re: More ripping off the taxpayer (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44597657)

you're right. he could've limited to stanford and been safe.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (5, Insightful)

grumpy_technologist (2610431) | 1 year,11 days | (#44596985)

I know!
  • How dare they take research dollars and research new technologies?
  • How dare they follow through with successful research by *forming a business in the U.S. of A.* the very country that funded the research.
  • How dare they take advantage of NSF-funded programs to transfer successful research to US-based businesses [nsf.gov] ? It's almost like they (congress, policymakers, and business) wanted this to happen.
  • How dare they use a volunteer-based peer review system to verify the findings and disseminate the results?
  • Finally, how dare they use the NSF-mandated Data magagement plan [nsf.gov] to make all data available to the public and other researchers? Clearly they are trying to dupe us all now!

Source: NSF funded researcher. Disclaimer: NSF-funded researcher.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597589)

That is beside the point. Why are our taxes going for this stuff in the first place? Our country is in deep debt to China that we might see CONUS land being sold off to them in order to just make interest payments (think the Louisiana Purchase, except in reverse.) Maybe we should start paying debts first, then worry about the cool stuff when the economy is better.

This stuff is for private companies to do, not unconstitutional pork barrel projects.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (1)

hide_drive (988787) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597013)

Bullshit. See the UMD policies on university ownership of faculty sponsored research products: http://www.president.umd.edu/policies/iv320anew.html [umd.edu]

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597043)

Doesn't apply, because this was not a faculty-sponsored research product, it was a government-sponsored, taxpayer-funded research product that belongs to the taxpayers.

Socialized risk, privatized profit. Welcome to the new oligarchy.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597549)

Federally sponsored research is explicitly mentioned in the document, and along with any other funded research ends up owned by the university except when barred by federal laws.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (4, Informative)

Manfre (631065) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597069)

The universities and other entities involved with funding the research are not shafted when these startups happen. Spinoff companies are great for universities. They get paid for their ownership on the patent(s).

I work at a research management company.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (1)

slick7 (1703596) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597601)

The universities and other entities involved with funding the research are not shafted when these startups happen. Spinoff companies are great for universities. They get paid for their ownership on the patent(s).

It will never get off the ground if there are no wires for the power companies to meter it.

Re:More ripping off the taxpayer (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44597667)

Yeah, because like, you know: the University TOTALLY would prefer to be in the license plate manufacturing business instead of licensing patents. If it wasn't for these dastardly rogues dedicating years of their life advancing the knowledge base of the human race(for low compensation relative to the prerequisite requirements), the Universities would be free to stop looking towards the future and instead focus on commercializing the technology of today!

Universities being the pinnacle of modern business efficiency, I have no doubt they would be extremely agile and lean in their processes. They would certainly have little to no competition to worry about, from foreign manufacturing bases(whose exports are subsidized by government manipulation of their national currency).

I'm just glad we have crusaders on the internet so willing to bear the ultimate sacrifice by accusing others of unethical behavior. A true martyr in every individual who finds themselves discontented by their own inability to have a positive impact on their life or the world around them. The ones who feel compelled to tear down any success made by others that would suggest their perception of futility in life's pursuits is only a reflection of their own personal failings.

Believe me: it's not that life is hard, you just suck at it.

Your unquestioning acceptance of traditional wisdom has brought you little reward in life, yet it's apparently somebody-successful's fault you appear to be a schmuck? The question I would ask you is: "What did you expect after listening to the advice of nobody but other schmucks?"

Don't worry, if you just keep at it a little bit longer I'm sure you will have something to show for all your hard work.

Unless the amortized annual cost is low (5, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | 1 year,11 days | (#44596861)

The municipal power plant isn't going anywhere.

Our house has all electric utilities - stove, oven water heater, dryer, home heating (in-wall heaters, no central furnace). I'm too lazy to add up the exact numbers, but we're probably paying $2000-2500 a year for electricity (Washington state).

Re:Unless the amortized annual cost is low (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,11 days | (#44596933)

What you're forgetting is that in WA we have some of the lowest prices on electricity in the country. Thanks to the WPA dams that the federal government gave us and the Californians that are incapable of producing enough electricity to cover their needs.

In much of the rest of the country, the cost of electricity is substantially higher, so one of these would be cost effective much more quickly.

Re:Unless the amortized annual cost is low (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597427)

There is *no* use case for generating power from natgas coming in through a pipe.

(1) The pipe is as easy to break as the power line
(2) It's more efficient to generate power on a large scale

There is a use case for generating (emergency backup) power on site. That's covered by diesel generators, and solar cells.

Re:Unless the amortized annual cost is low (5, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597513)

(1) The pipe is as easy to break as the power line

My experience:
Frequency of electricity outages: About every six months. More when I lived where thunderstorms are common.
Frequency of gas outages: Never. Not even once. In my entire life.

(2) It's more efficient to generate power on a large scale

This is only true for generators. It is NOT true for fuel cells, which is what this article is about. Fuel cells benefit little from "scale", and not enough to offset the transmission losses you avoid with local generation.

Re:Unless the amortized annual cost is low (2)

Trepidity (597) | 1 year,10 days | (#44597671)

Electric outage frequency really depends on your local weather and infrastructure. Neighborhoods with buried lines have a lot fewer outages than those with above-ground lines, for example.

Where I currently live, there hasn't been an outage in several years.

Re:Unless the amortized annual cost is low (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597547)

This could replace a diesel generator.

note also though that there are quite a few natural gas backup generators out there for backup purposes.
This could replace one of them easily. Also remember that natural gas can be compressed, so you can have a redundant supply tank if the pipe gets cut.
I'm wondering, though, about mobile use - if it can be run off propane, it could easily be used in a large pickup truck or semi; I'm wondering if the efficiency would be good enough that you woud be able to run one of these and wheel motors instead of a diesel engine and manual gearbox, differential etc.. each of which wastes power.

Question asked... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44596867)

Answer is no.

While it would be awesome to have your own power plant. You're fighting aginst alot of money.

Won't happen anytime soon.

Re:Question asked... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | 1 year,11 days | (#44596929)

If is cheap/simple enough to build and not patent encumbered could happen. People already uses natural gas for home heathing, if uses instead this for electricity (and if is efficient enough) could be a very possitive thing.

In the other hand, could be cheap/simple enough to build and have a metric ton of patents all around, forbidding anyone else to even try to make a solution. Then it could be something very damaging.

Re:Question asked... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44596979)

If its cheap/simple enough to be a threat to power company profits. There will be legislation to prevent it. Or at least enough to create a maze of red tape to prevent it from becoming the majority.

Re:Question asked... (-1, Flamebait)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597091)

If that's a concern, then I recommend you stop voting GOP. They're the ones that tend to be very vocally opposed to anything that might harm corporate profits.

Re:Question asked... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597435)

you've got a real deep understanding of the realities of the political process in the US don't you. is that you Obama?

Re:Question asked... (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597443)

What? I'm pretty sure both of the 'main' parties are like that.

Re:Question asked... (2, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597537)

If that's a concern, then I recommend you stop voting GOP. They're the ones that tend to be very vocally opposed to anything that might harm corporate profits.

Exactly! It was the Republicans that voted for the bank bailout ... oops, no wait, that was the Democrats. Well, it was the Republicans that voted for the bailout of GM ... oops, that was the Democrats too. Well, it was the Republicans that supported the taxpayer subsidies for Solnydra ... no? Dang, Democrats again. Gee, this isn't looking so good.

Re:Question asked... (2, Interesting)

peragrin (659227) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597583)

you do realize there were very few republicans dissenting against bailing out those companies.

Indeed the bank bail out was designed by republicans before Obama took office and was barely modified afterwards(by either party).

The real trick is the democrats support one type of companies(usually RIAA and their pets) While republicans protect military, and oil companies.

You get to choose which is the lesser of two evils, and remember who wrote up the DCMA.

Re:Question asked... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597577)

You are a dammfool if you think either party is any different at all.

Re:Question asked... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44597645)

I'd rather be concerned with profits than failed industries like solar, wind and Fisker. I don't want the government hoarding all the money in tbills for my healthly relatives on disability, rather then lend it out so someone can actually make a dime.

Re:Question asked... (1)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597051)

The best thing about it will be people who want to live off the grid back in the back side of nowhere. One of these and a Sat dish and you can stay connected while being far, far away.

Re:Question asked... (1)

evilviper (135110) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597193)

One of these and a Sat dish and you can stay connected while being far, far away.

That's true today, too. You'd just be generating electricity by burning that propane/kerosene/etc. in an engine, rather than a fuel cell.

Hell, except for internet service, it was true many, many decades ago, when humans pulled TV channels right out of the air, and all you "packets" of information got batch delivered to a small box you had to periodically poll...

Re:Question asked... (1)

camperdave (969942) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597313)

You'd just be generating electricity by burning that propane/kerosene/etc. in an engine, rather than a fuel cell.

Um... no. I'd be looking at microhydro sites if I were to go off the grid.

Re:Question asked... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597059)

Answer is no.

While it would be awesome to have your own power plant. You're fighting aginst alot of money.

Won't happen anytime soon.

I assume that 'Big Power' is why ordinary liquid-fuel internal combustion generators can only be obtained on the black market, if you have the right connections, after their brutal suppression? Oh, wait, no, generators are ubiquitous and relatively cheap, they're just a pain in the ass to maintain.

There is certainly a fair amount of capital tied up in generation and distribution infrastructure; but there are some points to remember:

The power company isn't pleased by your fluctuating demand: In an ideal world of steady demand, you could get away with exclusively operating the absolute cheapest (generally a polite way of saying 'coal', except in very good hydro areas) base-load plants 24/7, and size your distribution infrastructure to that load, with a dash of margin for safety. Nice, easy, lowest cost per kilowatt hour. In the real world, with demand fluctuating throughout the day(lights/no lights, commercial facilities open vs. after hours, etc.), throughout the year (A/C in summer, some heating in winter, little of either in spring and fall), and potentially over the longer term(population increases and decreases in a given area, movements of power-intensive industries, turnover of housing stock, improvements or decreases in gadget efficiency), the problem is more complex.

Short term fluctuations mean having to size the grid with peak load in mind (lest you risk some really hairy cascading failures) and mean having to have peak-load plants (often combined cycle natural gas) sitting idle part of the time and burning more-expensive-than-coal fuel the rest of the time. More capital invested, higher cost per kilowatt hour. Seasonal variations potentially mean even more facilities sitting idle, depreciating, part of the time, and longer-term variations mean wacky fun with demand forecasting and the potential for either customer displeasure or wasted facilities built for demand that never came.

If somebody announced, tomorrow, that their 'Unobtanium Plot-point Reactor' could fully replace all legacy electrical infrastructure, it is indeed likely that there would be some... industry unhappiness. However, any widget that costs more than base-load generation and distribution and can be used at the customer site to reduce demand fluctuation and function as a backup unit is a mutually beneficial arrangement: The utility gets closer to their ideal of 100% stable demand, the customer has a backup/peak generator that is ideally less obnoxious than the old diesel unit.

Plus, of course, for any given advance in power generation, there isn't anything stopping a large-scale producer from running the device at a large scale (with capital investment, and engineers on site, and other handy stuff) and offering the result for sale. Unless the transmission overheads or profits are usurious, many people probably don't want to coddle their own generator when they can just plug in for not much. Since the ability of utilities to individualize chargers based on precise per-person expense (ie. transmission line distance, difficulty of terrain, etc.) is typically constrained by some mixture of inadequate information and regulation, the customers who are least impressed by the centralized service (say the ones who live at the flaky edges of the grid, and deal with lots of exciting blackouts and issues, or in an area with brownout problems at peak) are also the customers that are likely to be least profitable.

Re:Question asked... (1)

redback (15527) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597171)

I'd be interested in seeing this scaled up to power plant size, and then using its heat output to run steam turbines for MOAR POWAH!

Re:Question asked... (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597559)

I'd be interested in seeing this scaled up to power plant size, and then using its heat output to run steam turbines for MOAR POWAH!

Good luck running your turbine with steam at 160C. You might want to read up on the second law of thermodynamics.

Re:Question asked... (4, Interesting)

peragrin (659227) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597599)

Why? this is perfect for CARS. Dishwasher sized will fit into most full size cars right now. creates electricity at low heat, which mean actual practical electric cars.

you change the fuel source to something other than oil.

Even better at 25kw that is enough to run the majority of homes.

Re:Question asked... (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597593)

http://www.ctdata.com/articles/2000/09/19/1052244.html
Big money already did.

not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44596881)

This is hardly news. There are companies that are already commercialising this kind of thing, and are rolling it out, eg Ceramic Fuel Cells http://www.cfcl.com.au

Re:not new (1)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597055)

I didn't see any for sale on that site.

Summary (5, Funny)

The Cat (19816) | 1 year,11 days | (#44596895)

It will never work.
It's been done before.
They'll get bought out.
The laws of themodynamics make everything impossible.

Re:Summary (1, Flamebait)

EmagGeek (574360) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597321)

Not everything is impossible. Just the bullshit that the liberals have been claiming "would only be possible if the oil companies would die in a fire and taxpayers gave billions to another one of Obama's friends' so-called green companies."

Re:Summary (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597603)

It will never work.
It's been done before.
They'll get bought out.
The laws of themodynamics make everything impossible.

I can't believe you got modded down to a -1. There is something called "humor" that many people on this site are unfamiliar with, possibly unless you hit them over the head with it.

Is the municipal power plant on the way out?" (2)

Nutria (679911) | 1 year,11 days | (#44596899)

Only if the cost of the fuel cell pack + installation, and the on-going cost of propane (not natural gas??) is cheaper over 3-4 years than the cost of electricity.

In places where power goes out during storms, it might be fruitful to get one anyway.

Re: Is the municipal power plant on the way out?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597015)

Unless it is economical the only market I see is potentially for use as backup generators or for homes in the middle of nowhere. Rich people with islands with no power, homes built in the middle of forest land or high on mountains where the power company wouldn't justify building out architecture...etc.

Re:Is the municipal power plant on the way out?" (1)

mug funky (910186) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597081)

it'll take natural gas. RTFA. it'll take that horrible e85 stuff too. hell, you could probably feed it on corn syrup if you're going down that route.

Is the municipal power plant on the way out? (0, Offtopic)

submain (856941) | 1 year,11 days | (#44596915)

Re:Is the municipal power plant on the way out? (1)

arielCo (995647) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597037)

“Can every headline ending in a question mark be answered by the word 'no'?”

Also, it's not a headline. *runs*

Yes! (2)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | 1 year,10 days | (#44597663)

“Can every headline ending in a question mark be answered by the word 'no'?”

isn't anything huge for normal people (1)

locopuyo (1433631) | 1 year,11 days | (#44596921)

This isn't going to change anything for normal people. You're still going to get your power from the power plant. But it could be good for places like hospitals that have their own backup systems.

Re:isn't anything huge for normal people (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44597649)

"A smaller, home-sized unit is on the way."

Fuel cell - storage device or generator? (1)

oldhack (1037484) | 1 year,11 days | (#44596931)

I had thought fuel cell was an energy storage device, not a generator?

Re:Fuel cell - storage device or generator? (2)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597065)

It's an energy conversion device. It converts fuel to electricity.

Re:Fuel cell - storage device or generator? (3, Informative)

rusty0101 (565565) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597201)

More specifically it converts specific types of fuel to energy. Usually Hydrogen and Oxygen get converted to Water, and the reaction releases an appreciable amount of dc voltage.

Systems like this that take propane, or natural gas, (pretty much any hydrocarbon fuel is an option, though as the chains get longer you run into other problems, we're not likely to see conversion of tar to electricity any time soon) first strip the hydrogen out of the hydrocarbon, and capture and sequester, or release the remaining carbon,

This works as long as that fuel source is not cost prohibitive. You're not likely to get Reliant to deliver a gas line to the middle of no where just so you can have electricity, and if you decide to go with delivered propane, I recommend spending time actually running your entire load off the system to see what your usage patern would be like if the AC line were cut for several days at a time, and size your propane delivery and reserve to support those needs. (Do remember to allow for additional load that may be seasonal, for example lines brought down by an ice storm in the middle of winter are probably going to result in a different demand pattern for the propane than wind storm in the middle of summer. It's also likely to result in different delivery limitations of the propane, and power restoration by the AC provider.)

An alternative to natural gas would be to electrolicize water using solar or wind power (or even a small hydroelectric plant,) then use a straight hydrogen and oxygen fuel cell to recombine the molecules as your demand for power comes up. There are issues with this of course, you're going to have to find a way to stuff the hydrogen into something that you can extract it from later, though there are a number of possibilities for that already. No real need to worry about the Oxygen molecules. The percentage of O2 in the atmosphere is high enough that most fuel cell systems that work in earth normal atmosphere can use it. (you run into issues in space and deep sea situations, and in theory on other planets, but we're pretty much ignoring those situations here.

Re:Fuel cell - storage device or generator? (1)

mug funky (910186) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597097)

the cell part, yes. the fuel part, no.

think of it as like a battery that doesn't carry the electrochemical stuff with it, but takes it from fuel.

Re:Fuel cell - storage device or generator? (1)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597101)

Fuel cells are generators. You put something in and you get electricity out. The specific mechanism may vary a bit, but ultimately, the point is that you wind up with electricity, so it's a generator.

Re:Fuel cell - storage device or generator? (1)

ksandom (718283) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597103)

In my limited understanding, I believe it's both. A fuel cell is a device that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent. [wikipedia.org] Therefore if there is fuel in it, it's generating electricity. If the fuel is sitting in a tank beside it, it's storage... I think my interpretation is a somewhat liberal interpretation of those ideas. And I don't know what what maintenance is required. Eg Is it bad to leave it dry for long periods of time? Is it bad to leave it full when idle for long periods of time? But back to my point, potentially you could use it in both ways.

I'm curious to hear the opinions of someone who knows more on the topic than me.

Re:Fuel cell - storage device or generator? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597123)

I had thought fuel cell was an energy storage device, not a generator?

There isn't actually a strict boundary, it just depends on how much of the universe you wish to consider:

A fuel cell is always a means of turning inputs with chemical potential energy into electricity, at some loss from inefficiency. If you start your calculations with synthesizing your inputs (cracking water for hydrogen, say), you will need more energy to produce the fuel (because that is also inefficient) than you will ever gain by sending it through the fuel cell. It's just a way of moving/storing the energy.

If you start your calculations with a fuel already provided, or counting only the cost of extracting and purifying the fuel(as with, say, drilling for natural gas, or hooking up a propane cylinder) it counts as a generator, since your accounting ignores the original synthesis costs and only considers the upside, and possibly a few logistical costs.

I hope they have better demonstrative powers... (2)

Alejux (2800513) | 1 year,11 days | (#44596975)

then our Italian friend, Andrea Rossi.

80% *including* waste heat (2)

BenBoy (615230) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597023)

Great, so if you use the waste heat it throws off, you can get 80% efficiency. How is this different from the efficiency of using a Bunsen burner-heated teakettle to turn a little turbine for power, and claiming the waste heat as usable energy? Plus there's the entertainment value of the whistling sound of the kettle itself ... What are the figures without the waste heat thrown in? RTFA was no help ...

Re:80% *including* waste heat (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597093)

80% eff including heat? Modern combustion engine based micro-CHPs do better than that...

Re:80% *including* waste heat (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597107)

If you actually include the waste heat, you'll always get 100% efficiency. Energy conservation, you know.

Re:80% *including* waste heat (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597155)

Waste heat != economically recoverable waste heat.

Re:80% *including* waste heat (1)

evilviper (135110) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597163)

If you actually include the waste heat, you'll always get 100% efficiency. Energy conservation, you know.

Go find a 100% efficient condensing boiler and get back to me.

Re:80% *including* waste heat (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | 1 year,10 days | (#44597681)

I have a two stage condensing gas furnace. At stage 1 it spec'ed is 99.5% efficient. At stage 2 it is 98% efficient. When checked during yearly service it meets or exceeds these specs.

I don't know why a NG fuel cell/heating system couldn't be built to similar specs (for winter operation anyway).

One piece of the puzzle (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597049)

One of these powers 5 houses... So put solar panels on 5 houses, use that energy during the day to create hydrogen. Use hydrogen to power all 5 houses in a stable manner (day, night, rain, otherwise).

That would be revolutionary to much of the world. Just like skipping landlines but having cell phones- they will skip the grid and have electricity.

Also huge in terms of security. The grid is too vulnerable for my tastes.

Re:One piece of the puzzle (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597379)

you can alreaddy do that with a vanadium redox battery

Laser Power Plant! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597057)

Vehicle mounted 12 KW Laser is the obvious use!

Nothing new, but good luck to them (4, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597085)

Nothing new here. Identical tech dates back at least to 2009:

http://www.cerespower.com/Technology/TheCeresCell/ [cerespower.com]

There's no question that fuel cells, that can run on the same fossil fuels we use now, would be a huge step forward, if they could be made cheaply enough. They exceed Carnot efficiency, so a fuel cell that ran on unleaded gasoline would instantly double even the best hybrid vehicle fuel efficiency. Large natural gas power plants would get perhaps a 50% improvement in efficiency. Fuel cells running on methanol are quite popular in forklifts because they are zero emissions, lower maintenance and get more run-time than batteries, according to the DoE.

They'd be a great replacement for generators as well. Imagine a fuel cell in every cellular tower, with a CNG tank on-site in case both the power and gas lines fail (and can be refilled by truck). Imagine your central heating boiler being for home and water heating was generating free electricity as well as heat for a combined ~80% efficiency (almost as good as condensing boiler). Imagine every city block has a fuel cell the size of a utility cabinet, reducing transmission losses and easing strain on the power grid.

High efficiency, plus fuel flexibility, plus almost zero maintenance (and nearly no noise), and little pollution, makes these things possible, where they aren't all that practical with conventional heat/combustion engines.

Bloombox anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597087)

I remember reading about something like this a few years ago called a bloom box. Apparently big companies like Google were already using large versions to power their data centers. Not sure on its actual output in kW however. I don't remember if they even released that sort of information, it was somewhat lacking in details at the time except for the testimonial of people testing it. It sounds almost exactly like this one though,

Summary is wrong: Mfr claims 60% efficient at 550C (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597161)

According to the manufacturer's website, the operating temperature is 550C (~930 degrees F), NOT 149C/300F. And efficiency is listed as 60%, not 80% as the summary claimed. The specs are for the to-be-release 80kW model, I can't see where the 25kW specs are located -- I'm guessing it's a prototype.

Source: http://www.powerserg.com/redox-powerserg-the-cube-specs.html

LOL, yeah right (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597195)

LOL, yeah right. It has less energy density than a lipo battery.

Whatever... Slashvertisement

No thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597261)

I'm holding out for the Mr. Fusion. I have it from a reliable source that it will be available in a couple of years at the most.

One of the key benefits of this (1)

CFD339 (795926) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597271)

...is the lack of long haul transmission waste. My understanding is that up to half the energy available at a large plant can be lost through the resistance (heat conversion) and other factors (induction?) in the lines before it gets to it's point of use. Small, neighborhood generation stations would be excellent if they were available, clean, safe, and reasonably inexpensive to maintain.

Re:One of the key benefits of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597339)

That long haul electrical losses is now replaced by tanker trucks overhead to each of the individual substations. However, if you make the local storage large enough, then it is not too bad. It might be a safety and NIMBY issues.

Re:One of the key benefits of this (1)

rusty0101 (565565) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597371)

And gas lines don't ever leak.

There will always be some form of transmission los. Hopefully over the long haul, losses due to pipeline leakage, or storage tank leakage will be a significantly lower percentage compared to high tension power line loss. I'll agree that it's likely to be less than 50%, and presumably less than 30% (which combined with the 20% unrecovered waste in an 80% efficient fuel cell would come to a 50% loss.) but there will be some appreciable loss due to leakage. Heck you loose gasoline to evaporation between filling up the 1.5 gallon gas can at the station and filling the lawn mower, though you only notice it if you're storing the gas in that gas can for months at a time.

Re:One of the key benefits of this (3, Informative)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,10 days | (#44597651)

My understanding is that up to half the energy available at a large plant can be lost through the resistance (heat conversion) and other factors (induction?) in the lines before it gets to it's point of use.

No, average loss from power plant to customer is about 7%. Even very long (1000+ mile) HVDC lines only add a few percent.

How. Much. ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597289)

The ~7KW jobbies I looked at around 10 years ago were around $10K. The last time I looked, a couple of years ago, about the same. Economies of scale have not yet come into play, as far as I can tell.

If they can sell a 25KW unit for significantly less than $1K per KW they may have something.

it would be worth it only if (1)

FudRucker (866063) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597303)

i could get one installed for less than six thousand dollars, the startup cost is where this machine kicks everyone at, after that the machine must be able to pay for itself in a few years otherwise it is not worth it

And it's called the Perpetuum Mobile! (1)

divisionbyzero (300681) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597323)

Sorry, it's hard not to be snarky with claims of energy breakthroughs. There is always a trade-off. What is it?

How much is that cube? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597365)

and when is Fry is going to carry it - I can power my racks of computers with that thing

No more hockey stick (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597385)

Gee, this is going to throw out the doomsday scenarios of all those neo-ecovists who claim our increasing energy consumption and pollution are going to destroy the planet.

1) The planet really doesn't give a hoot.

2) Energy usage is getting more efficient - my new freezer, refrigerator, computer, fan, van all use far less energy to do the same work as pervious models.

3) Power generation technology is dramatically improving with things like co-generation fuel cells, micro-hydro, micro-solar, etc.

My personal favorite is micro-hydro. I can generate about 25KW with something about the size of half a home washer and no fossil fuel inputs since it's just catching motion from falling water. Sure, it won't work everywhere but there are a lot of places where it will. In other places solar hot water, solar electric, wind are all viable options too.

This raises the one big issue I have with the fuel cells, they require a fuel input. That costs money.

Re:No more hockey stick (1)

russotto (537200) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597489)

My personal favorite is micro-hydro. I can generate about 25KW with something about the size of half a home washer and no fossil fuel inputs since it's just catching motion from falling water.

Too bad it will cost you about 10 billion dollars to get the required permits, if it's at all possible.

"can run at an 80 percent efficiency" ??? (2)

lfp98 (740073) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597449)

"[it] can run at an 80 percent efficiency when used to provide both heat and power." This makes no sense. If you count the heat produced, any combustible material can easily yield much better than 80 percent efficiency just by burning it. Condensing natural gas boilers, for example, routinely run at >95% efficiency. Of course, they're producing all heat and no electricity, but by the specified criteria, that's more efficient than the Cube. Straight % efficiency in producing electricity only, would be a much more useful number. I doubt that they're only counting electricity in the 80%, but it's ambiguous as written.

Ignore TFA and read company web site (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44597455)

As usual, the Forbes article is misleading. Read the company web site (http://www.powerserg.com/). They're positioning "The Cube" as an alternative to small generators. That sounds like a really good application if they can get the cost down. Diesel and natural gas generators are a pain in the ass. They're not efficient. They have a lot of moving parts that require maintenance. They're noisy. The cheaper ones are only intended for short-term use, and can't run continuously for more than a few days. A fuel cell is better in all respects, as long as the price is right.

It is NOT Diverse Energy! (4, Informative)

PineHall (206441) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597457)

The company is Redox Power Systems [redoxpowersystems.com] , not Diverse Energy. Diverse Energy's fuel cell uses ammonia as a fuel source, not natural gas. The summary is mixing up 2 different fuel cell technologies. (I know broke the rules and read the articles.)

Never going to happen. (2)

hackus (159037) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597459)

There is no way they will ever get approval with the cronyism walking around to ever have someone generate all of their own electricity.

People are already being targeted for growing their own food by "STORM TROOPERS" which barge in with machine guns and kill everyone and ask questions later.

That includes a bullet for the family dog, cat and canary.

People don't understand what is going on with power, and forget the whole ENRON thing (which is still going on by the way, it just changed hands to people who are unaccountable.)

There is no way the Oil/Electric Gas companies will permit such a device _ever_.

-Hack

These stories are always frustrating (2)

John.Banister (1291556) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597517)

I've read these stories and looked up fuel cell research for years, and it's very frustrating when I consider to actually buy a fuel cell. It always turns out that the smallest model costs like a car or the largest model is a science class demonstrator kit. A 5kw fuel cell that costs only double the cost of a 5kw Honda generator would likely find lots of consumer interest, but despite "promising research" since the '70s (and before, I'm sure), the one people would want to own never makes an appearance in the marketplace.

In favor of power plant (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597591)

Is the municipal power plant on the way out?

The power plant comes with power lines that reach houses. If that is replaced by distributed fuel cells, unless there is a municipal pipeline network, the fuel has to be carried by vehicles, and I have trouble to understand how it could be more efficient in the end.

Good (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | 1 year,11 days | (#44597637)

a new type of fuel cell that is 90% less costly than current cells at one tenth the size (making it the size of a dishwasher)

Nice try SkyNet. At least it's still not small enough to fit two of them in Arnold's chest.

some details would be nice (2)

strack (1051390) | 1 year,10 days | (#44597643)

ok, firstly, that "80% efficiency when it provides both heat and power" is a copout. any engine can be 100% efficient when you classify usable energy output as both heat and electricity. i wanna know the efficiency of the electricity production.
secondly, how long is the lifetime of the unit? how much fuel can it process before the catalyst or membrane or whatever wears out? and how expensive is the catalyst? is it still made out of freaking platinum?
thirdly, can this thing be used in vehicles? planes? cause thats the real application of something like this.

Cars? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,10 days | (#44597669)

Can these things be scaled to smaller sizes and are they rugged (resistant to vibration, etc.)? If so, they'd be great for cars.

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