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ACAL Energy completes build of first field test system of FlowCath fuel cell technology; new single cell peak power density of nearly 900 mW/cm2

Rendering of ACAL Energy’s fuel cell engine, showing stack and external regenerator. Click to enlarge.

UK-based ACAL Energy has completed the build of its first field test system of its FlowCath platinum-free liquid cathode fuel cell technology, producing gross power of 3kW. (Earlier post.) The company has also achieved a new record single-cell peak performance power density of nearly 900 mW/cm2, which is a substantial improvement over the previously announced peak power record of around 600 mW/cm2.

FlowCath technology replaces up to 90% of the current level of platinum catalyst in a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell with a low-cost, durable liquid chemical. The liquid is continuously pumped through the fuel cell stack into an external regenerator and then back to the stack. The technology also significantly reduces the balance of plant costs by eliminating the need for hydration, pressurization, complex cooling and other expensive mechanical sub-systems commonly found in conventional PEM fuel cells.

Field test unit. The first FlowCath demonstration unit will be installed next month at Solvay Interox’s chemical plant at Warrington, Cheshire. There, it will provide continuous electrical power to a remote environmental monitoring system within the manufacturing facility. The stack and regenerator sub-systems in the demonstration unit are together capable of producing more than 3kW of gross electrical power and represent a significant scale-up from the previous generation test unit which produced about 1kW of gross power.

The demonstration system is part of a collaborative project that ACAL Energy is leading, co-funded by the UK’s Technology Strategy Board. The project is seen as a major step towards commercialization for this technology, and is supported by ACAL Energy’s partners: Solvay Interox, Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells, UPS Systems, the Centre for Process Innovation, the University of Southampton and the Manufacturing Engineering Centre at Cardiff University.

New peak power with focus on automotive. The new record peak power output from a single cell of nearly 900 mW/cm2 was achieved under the PEM Challenge grant project sponsored by the Carbon Trust, which is funding accelerated development of ACAL Energy’s technology for automotive applications. The latest performance results give the company even greater confidence in the ability of its technology to meet the efficiency requirements of nearly all stationary and automotive applications, while delivering a substantially higher level of durability than conventional fuel cells.

With the successful implementation of our FlowCath technology into a full multi-kilowatt system, ACAL Energy has passed a significant milestone in our business plan. We have shown that this new low cost and durable fuel cell technology can be packaged and operated in a form suitable for nearly all stationary power applications.

To have broken new performance records at the same time is a very promising sign that we can also make this technology suitable for automotive applications.

—Dr SB Cha, CEO of ACAL Energy



Excellent progress, but it should be pointed out the Nissan has reached an energy density of 2.5kw/litre and reduced precious metal use.
This has advantages in the cooling systems and so on though.

Thomas Pedersen

Update me please, do PEM cells still only accept pure hydrogen as fuel?


'The other drawback of PEM cells is that they need pure hydrogen to operate as they are very susceptible to poisoning by carbon monoxide and other impurities. This is largely due to the low operating temperature of the cell which necessitates the use of a highly sensitive catalyst. Again, work is being carried out to produce more tolerant catalyst systems along with membranes capable of operating at higher temperatures.'


Both Nissan and Hyundai tell us that they have got there with 'good enough' fuel cells.
The first Nissan fcev is due before 2016 whilst Hyundai intend small scale production from 2012, starting at 500 in the first year and building to 10,000/year by 2015


The problem is to do hydrogen to put for sale. Hydrogen fuelcells are already ready and have sufficient performance to begin been commercialized. Im sick and tired of waiting again and again. Put some hydrogen for sale somewhere. There is as much studies to do in hydrogen station technology then that the hydrogen fuelcell itself. I still have the feeling that we are atill in the middle age, especially on the commercialisation aspect.


The 4 miracles...remember?
Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, reminded us, "...we need better ways to produce, distribute, and store hydrogen, and we need better, cheaper fuel cells. If you need four miracles, that's unlikely: saints only need three miracles,"

With BEV, only the cheaper, more powerful battery is the miracle. Energy production and distribution can evolve incrementally. The battery is energy storage.

See? 1 miracle. 1.5 tops.


FYI, here's a detailed analysis of the barriers to Fuel Cells, that concludes if by 2050 we used FC with H2 made from Wind Power, we'd need 1,400 GW of Windpower in the US. If we used BEV instead, we would only need 400 GW of wind power for our light transportation fleet.

H2 FC for cars will never make strategic or financial sense. PHEV as a bridge to BEV is the ONLY model that adds up.


you are very doctrinaire.
None of the criticisms you make would really apply to a plug in FC.
None of them allow for possible progress in producing hydrogen such as solar to hydrogen from artificial photosynthesis.



I do not mean to be doctrinaire. I don't mean to rain on any brilliant technologist's parade either.

It's just that I am still irritated that we had some very good future car demonstrations of hybrids during the Clinton years, and the first thing Bush did was throw a billion dollars at Hydrogen FC research to stall the hybrid research that was so much more practical and attainable. It was a very cynical move.

I also remain unimpressed with the multitude of conversion losses for producing, distributing, pressurizing, and reacting H2...when all it really is is an inefficient way of storing Kilowatthours.

As I understand it, plug in FC take power from the wall, convert water to H2, pressurize the H2, react the H2, and produce electricity for the motor. That eliminates one miracle (distribution). That isn't artificial photoshynthesis. Artificial photosynthesis H2 does have to be stored and probably distributed. It may be 10x more efficient than bio photosynthesis, but that's only because bio photosynthesis is less than 2% efficient. Cover the same area with PV panels and BEV win again.

I believe we can make cheaper fuel cells. I believe we can make more compact, more durable fuel cells. I believe we can make renewable H2 less wastefully. I believe we can make better ways to store H2. I just believe that when you add up all the net costs and conversion losses, the resulting system will compare poorly to the then-available batteries in all ways except refueling time.

Roger Pham

Secretary Chu's pessimism against H2-FC reflects his political alliance: The Dems and Obama, who are supported by the BEV lobby, vs. H2-FC which was initiated by GWB from the GOP.

Here are the facts: H2 as energy storage cost only a few $USD per kWh of capacity with no loss of capacity after thousands of cycles, while Battery costs hundreds of dollars per kWh of capacity, and loses 20% of capacity after 2000 cycles.
The intermittency of solar and wind energy means that a vast and low-cost energy storage capacity will be needed if we are going to completely move away from fossil fuels.

Soon, solar PV electricity will be cost competitive with coal-fired electricity. H2 storage and distribution will be on every street corner. Electrolyzer and FC will soon be very affordable.

There will be no problem with H2 production, storage, and distribution whatsoever, as the H2 will be produced already compressed right off the electrolyzer, and stored and dispensed all in one spot, all at costs well below petrol at the present. Unlike petroleum, there will be no need to transport crude oil (crude H2?) nor any need to refine H2...The H2 will come off the electrolyzer at 99.99% pure and at low cost. Only the electrons need to move around in electric wires, and the electrons weigh next to nothing!

When you use H2 to generate electricity in order to charge your BEV, then H2-FCV will have higher efficiency than your BEV...and you must at certain times, since in the winter, more energy will be consumed than harnessed by the combination of solar and wind energy. BEV's have so limited storage capacity that V2G will be totally inadequate to store excess solar and wind energy, otherwise will be wasted in the spring and fall, and also summer in northern latitudes.

From this perspective, then, H2-FCV and BEV have comparable efficiency from renewable sources to wheel.



We'll never get to the bottom of anything if you say anti-H2 people are biased, and I say pro-H2 people are biased.

Show me better math about the comparative well-to-wheels efficiency of FC vs BEV.

Show me better math about the up front cost of FC vehicle vs BEV200, with reasonable assumptions say 5-years from now.

I do have a hard time accepting your supposition that we can ignore the considerable conversion losses of storing Kwhr as H2 once we have a huge surplus of intermittent renewable energy. Even under optimistic projections, that's still a long way off. We'll add renewable engery capacity just to meet growing energy demand to power our transportation fleet, for a long time before we start mothballing fossil fuel power plants. What if the time you're envisioning is 60 years away? What should we do in the mean time?

Roger Pham

People are inherently biased, that's human nature, that's to be accepted.

W2W efficiency of FCV is quite acceptable economically. W2W efficiency of BEV is better, but without H2 seasonal storage, a lot of the renewable energy collected in springs and falls will go to waste.

If we are really serious about halting global warming, we must start deploying renewable energy collectors at a feverish pace (pardon the pun). The global economic crisis will get a big relief from all the jobs that will be created. The economics of continuation with fossil fuel is one thing, but people don't ask for clean air and clean water just for economic reasons, just like people don't drive luxury cars and fly first class for economic reasons.

But, in consideration of the economic harms that global warming will wreak havoc upon us, then may be the switch to an all-renewable-energy future may even make economic sense. All the CO2 emission from fossil fuel will hang around the atmosphere forever. Plants will incorporate that carbon, but when the plants decay or be consumed, the carbon incorporated will be re-released in the atmosphere. To sequester that carbon from biomass, we must dehydrogenate that carbohydrate into charcoal, then put the charcoal in the ground and never use it again! That's quite an expensive clean up of CO2 from the atmosphere forever!
May be you can present us with precise data on that!



Global warming. Exactly. For a lot of the next 30+ years, the electricity that charges PHEV and BEV will come from fossil fuel plants (often base-load coal at night). Given that, let's not force the burning of even more fossil fuels by wasting energy messing with H2.

Roger Pham

Let's be more optimistic. Solar PV installation is increasing at a very rapid speed, as well as wind turbines. A smart grid that can tell plugged-in electric vehicles (PEV) (and H2-electrolyzers) when there is excess of renewable energy to start charging and when to stop charging as Bob Wallace has suggested, can allow PEV and H2V to use renewable energy for the most part.

With continual ramping up in renewable electricity capacity, we can go fossil-fuel free as early as in the next several decades, and we will need both PEV's and H2V's to manage and to level the intermittency of solar and wind electricity. It's totally doable.

Let's save fossil fuels for rainy days, literally, and for very valuable raw material production, like plastic and carbon fiber. Fossil fuels are too precious to consume them all and then go fuel-starved because we are too dumb to figure these out ahead of time and did not build renewable energy infrastructure fast enough.

Meanwhile, Wall Streets around the nation (USA) are being occupied by unemployed people, because all we think about is short-term profits without thinking about human well-being in a larger picture, and give people jobs to build our future renewable energy infrastructures.


The less energy conversions the better, in a situation with lots of RE we are better using pumped storage, grid based batteries (~80% round trip efficiencies) or using 'excess' electricity to power heat pumps and use thermal stores (hot water tanks / industrial cooling) rather that using H2

Roger Pham

Absolutely. Must use all of what you've mentioned first. However, these are of limited capacity for a day or two the most. Pumped storage and CAS require the right geography for such. STill need H2 for higher capacity storage.

Big trucks and big vehicles will need H2 for sure. Same for commercial vehicles that must be driven a lot in one day. Same is true for ships. Same is true for all who would rather use H2 in their cars rather than battery.


Both technologies could eventually make economic sense but long range BEVs, with Toyota's Solid States batteries, will be more user friendly and could be charged at home with soon to arrive Sharp 40% efficient solar cells.

Relatively small (10 square meters pr 10 ea. 1 M2 panels) 40% efficient solar cells could produce and average of 20 Kwh to 24 Kwh of clean energy with only 6 hrs/day of decent sunlight, i.e. enough to drive a BEV about 140 to 180 Km/day. One problem remains, where to store the energy when most of it will be produce, i.e. between 8 h am and 16h pm.? A 25+ Kwh home storage unit or a second BEV may be required unless one can exchange energy with the grid.

Roger Pham

Thanks, HarveyD, for the info.
All PEV's (Plugged-in EV) should be plugged-in all the time, at home and at work, except while on the road. With a smart grid that can tell these PEV's to charge when there is excess of renewable energy, like Bob Wallace suggested, then they can absorb excess kWh's for use later. With a very large-capacity Toyota's solid states batteries, PEV's only need to run around at partial charge, so that they can be ready to absorb excess wind or solar energy from the grid. After sun down, these high-capacity, high-cycling car batteries can sell off these solar kWh's absorb during the day back to the grid and make some money to recoup the cost of the battery.

When you carry around 300-mi-range battery that can be charged 2000-5000 times, and only drive 40 miles/day, you only need a full charge once a week, or 52 times/year, or 520 times in ten years, 0r 5200 times in 100 years...calendar-life deterioration will more likely take a chunk out of your capacity before your driving will...It makes more economic sense to use your battery as much as possibled daily to level out the daily intermittency of solar and wind energy. V2G can really then allow us to use the intermittent solar and wind energy to satisfy all our diurnal electrical demands without resorting burning chemical fuels.

The exception is when the sun is out for several days, especially in winters, and the wind is weak...get out the stored H2 for power generation via H2-FC. Even though stored H2 is less efficient and will cost more, we can be proud ourselves of not having to resort to fossil fuel energy.
Like an alcoholic who should never touch alcohol again, we, as fossil-fuel addicts, should likewise manage to never resort to fossil fuels again.

A very bright renewable energy future, indeed, coming to a very near future. Stay tuned!

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