EPFL start-up company Inergio recently unveiled a prototype that could be a steppingstone on the way to miniature fuel cells.
The Swiss company’s prototype is light, environmentally friendly and high-performance.
The size of the prototype is only 25 cm (9.8 inches) by 14 cm (5.5 inches) by 14 cm. That said, despite how small it is, according to Inergio, it can provide 25W when no hydrogen or power grid access are available. Many are looking to this technology as an important step in the right direction toward developing miniature fuel cells.
The prototype cell is supposed to be able to be able to provide between seven and eight hours of flight time for delivery drones. Moreover, it could also be very helpful for powering environmental sensors, weather stations, telecommunications antennae, or other remote locations such as campsites.
This development shows promise that miniature fuel cells are not outside the realm of possibility. The prototype cell uses a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC), providing high yields of fuel-to-electricity conversion. According to the company, the cell does not produce any greenhouse gas emissions. That said, it is also capable of continuing operations at exceptionally high temperatures – as high has 650ºC (1202ºF).
The fuel cell is approximately 80 percent lighter than comparable systems. As a result, this could open up a full spectrum of additional opportunities for using hydrogen fuel cells within the current market, said the company.
This helps to underscore Inergio’s longer-term goal for transitioning over to carbon neutral energy sources without having to sacrifice power to reach that target.
“In the future, hydrogen – for now still hard to produce – could also be used as a fuel, making the cell even more efficient and eco-friendly,” said Mahmoud Hadad, Inergio founder and director. “In remote locations, such as mountainous regions, it offers a safe, silent power source that is not dependent on weather conditions and can operate on its own for extended periods.”
The closer the industry comes to producing miniature fuel cells, the wider the number of applications there will be for their use.