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Portable applications are small mobile power generation units. The wording portable applications describes either battery replacement systems (micro fuel cells with power below 500 W) or small mobile or remote power supply systems (portable generators with power above 500 W up to 5kW). Fuel cell types that are suitable for portable applications include:

  • proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) using pure hydrogen (H2-PEMFCs);
  • PEMFCs using hydrogen-rich gases from hydrocarbon or alcohol reforming (Ref-PEMFCs);
  • direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs); and
  • high-temperature fuel cells such as solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) and molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFCs) using hydrocarbons directly.

micro fuel cells

The main market fuel cell based portable batteries are mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), laptop and notebook computers, cameras, medical equipment, military applications and other portable electronic devices. In comparison to batteries, fuel cells can supply much more power per unit volume or weight and also give the ability to retaure power by simply replacing the fuel cartdrige. However, they have lower output voltages and are slower to respond to transients.

DMFCs are mostly used for small units and devices in integrated systems because they use a liquid fuel with a high energy density that is easy to distribute. PEMFCs for portable generators do not differ much from the large PEMFCs used in stationary and transport applications. However, PEMFCs that are to be integrated into small electronic devices, need to be specially designed for miniaturisation.

Fuel cells for portable applications have the advantage that the cost per kW is much less important (not a barrier to market introduction) than for stationary and transport applications. They are usually only required to have relatively short lifetimes, typically of the order 2,000 hours. This makes them suitable for rapid market introduction. Fuel cells do not create new applications for portable equipment, but they can improve the practical value of existing devices. As battery replacements, for instance, fuel cells can increase the operating time of electronic and electrical equipment.

Illustrations of portable applications are shown in figures 1 - 2 below (RisoEnergyReport:3:2004):

portable generators

For fuel cells up to 5 kW, main market includes portable generators, uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), auxiliary power units, power tools, light vehicles such as electric trolleys, lawn mowers and roadside equipment. In comparaison with conventional ICE generators, fuel cell portable genrators offer lower noise and exhaust emissions. In this marked sector it is necessary to solve the remaining problems associated with reliability and lifetime.


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Page last modified on February 20, 2009, at 09:24 PM