A fuel cell for the home

June 3, 2014

Production of the cell stacks at the Fraunhofer IKTS (credit: Fraunhofer IKTS)

A simple fuel cell for home use has been developed by Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Germany and heater manufacturer Vaillant.

With an output of one kilowatt, they cover the average current consumption for a four-person household.

Fuel cells convert natural gas directly into electrical energy. They are many times more efficient than are combustion engines, such as the car engine.

The miniature power station for home use is based on a solid fuel cell (SOFC). SOFCs operate at a much higher temperature in comparison to competing approaches, such as the proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), which is used in cars, for example.

While PEMFCs only reach 80 degrees, SOFCs can reach up to 850 degrees. “This allows the SOFCs to be built much more simply and cheaply,“ says Fraunhofer’s Matthias Jahn.

They are as compact as classical gas heaters that only produce heat, and they can comfortably be mounted on the wall and easily be maintained.

The fuel cell is being tested in European demonstration project. “Now, it’s all about decreasing production costs and increasing the lifetime of the equipment,” said Jahn.