International chemical group Solvay now claims to have created the world’s largest PEM (Proton exchange membrane) fuel cell. The one megawatt hydrogen fuel cell has been set up at SolVin chlorine plant in Antwerp, Belgium. Used for industrial demonstration it produced power of more than 500 megawatts per hour and has been generating energy at this steady rate for two months, operating for 800 hours. The energy produced by the cell is enough to power 1370 homes for all that time.
This PEM fuel cell generates electricity by converting the chemical energy of hydrogen through an electrochemical reaction with oxygen. Apart from electricity the fuel cell system also generates heat, which is also well utilized for the production process of the plant. As per Nedstack, being an energy intensive industry, power is needed from time to time. Hydrogen being one of the byproducts of chlorine industry, the fuel cell system now allows Solvin plant to self generate 20 to 40 percent of the energy it consumes. The total operating efficiency of plant is 80 percent with the current electricity efficiency being 50 percent.
The cell is a unique example of European collaborative effort. The MEA (Membrane electrode assemblies) have been manufactured by Solvicore using Solvay’s polymers in Germany. The fuel cell is then built by MTSA and Nedstack. The only byproducts being water and heat, fuel cells are one of the exciting sources of clean technology. So far emphasis has been on developing fuel cells to power automobiles etc., but their big size can be an option to provide green energy for homes and buildings as well.