ACAL Energy Announces Successful Operation of Novel Fuel Cell With Recirculating Liquid Cathode Technology
|ACAL replaces the cathode in a conventional PEM fuel cell (left) with a liquid, non-precious metal catalyst system (right). Click to enlarge.|
UK-based ACAL Energy Ltd. has announced the successful operation of a new type of fuel cell system based on its proprietary recirculating liquid cathode technology, known as FlowCath. A 50W fully integrated multi-cell system incorporating the Flowcath technology was operated for the first time last week and produced higher power levels than expected, according to the company.
The FlowCath system replaces the standard—and expensive—platinum cathode found in conventional fuel cells with a liquid, non-precious metal catalyst system. This not only reduces the cost of the cell, but also humidifies the membrane naturally, eliminating the need for additional hydration systems, and better manages the heat which is generated.
The circulating catalyst solution was originally invented by Ford Motor in 1950s, but abandoned because the chemical system couldn’t deliver enough oxygen. ACAL leverages advances in detergent chemistry over the past 50 years.
ACAL’s core technology is the liquid catalyst chemistry. The company currently uses a polyoxometallate inorganic association complex that is very stable and robust, and offers the same power density as platinum (unpressurized), with an additional 100% performance improvement possible.
For its next-generation system, the company is developing a transition metal-ligand complex. This is a higher potential catalyst, capable of delivering 2-3x the performance of platinum, according to ACAL.
|Drawing of the ACAL fuel cell system.|
The fact that we have managed successfully to build a 10-cell stack, and get the integrated system working so quickly is down to our approach of changing only those parts of the system necessary to adopt our FlowCath technology, keeping everything else the same.— Dr Andrew Creeth, inventor
ACAL will next try to scale up from the initial 50W system to a 1 kW unit, as well as running the system to demonstrate the expected long term durability advantages of the approach.
ACAL Energy Limited was co-founded in August 2004 by FlowCath inventor Dr Andrew Creeth and Amanda Lyne. The CEO is Dr Sb Cha, ex Commercial Director of CDT Inc. ACAL Energy is in the process of raising private equity funds in order to take the technology forward from small scale laboratory systems, into manufacturable prototypes.
Although ACAL is targeting a range of markets, including stationary, residential and automotive applications requiring larger than 1 kW of power, its initial target is diesel generator replacement ($4b+ market). Home CHP and automotive are longer term possibilities. ACAL thinks it will be ready for initial commercialization by 2010.
ACAL Energy is currently funded by CT Investment Partners LLP, Rising Stars Growth Fund (RSGF), NorthStar Equity Investors Ltd and Porton Capital Ltd. and Synergis Technologies Ltd.