As we all look forward to a greener, more sustainable energy future, the promise of hydrogen based fuel cells is certainly one of the most exciting energy technologies on the cusp of mainstream acceptance. Fuel cells were a 10 billion dollar industry in 2019 and that is only growing as the technology continues to become more affordable and more efficient. CPI is excited about this promising technology and even more excited that fuel cell manufacturers are choosing CPI thermal switches as key components in their evolving solutions.
What is a Fuel Cell and How does it Work?
A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines hydrogen fuel and oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water. Fuel cells operate without combustion, so they are virtually pollution free literally producing water as a by-product. Since the fuel is converted directly to electricity and heat, a fuel cell’s total system efficiency can be much higher than internal combustion engines, extracting much more energy from the same amount of fuel. Some modern fuel cells have an overall efficiency of almost 65% compared only 20% of a gas engine. The fuel cell itself has no moving parts, making it a quiet and reliable source of power.
Of course challenges exist with fuel cells because hydrogen is not a naturally occurring element. Hydrogen must be separated from other compounds that contain hydrogen, and breaking these chemical bonds requires energy that is mostly coming from fossil fuel sources. Until renewables provide a much higher percentage of the energy grid, it is fair to say that fuel cells aren’t entirely emissions-free. And of course, in this electrochemical reaction heat is produced along with electricity and water. This heat must be managed carefully as the temperature of the fuel cell is a significant performance changing factor. That’s where CPI comes in.
Managing Thermal Performance of Fuel Cells.
One CPI thermal switch already seeing use in fuel cells is our AD173 bimetallic thermal switch. This switch is a small form factor switch that can detect temperatures from –18C to 148C with tolerances as tight as 2.8C. The under-clamp mounting tab makes this switch perfect for pipe or exhaust mounting and the small size and custom lead lengths mean it can fit into a tight space. Another feature of the AD series appropriate for fuel cells is the fact that it is hermetically sealed and can be deployed inside or exposed to the elements without issue. The switch is also impervious to shock and vibration for vehicle mounted cells and will not fail even under highly challenging environmental conditions.
Controlling the temperature of fuel cell reactions is critical to the overall efficiency of its operation and the AD series of thermal switches has been used for both high and low temperature detection in fuel cells for different monitoring applications.
Low Temperature Fuel Cell Detection & Prevention
Given that water is such an important part of fuel cell operation, careful precautions must be take to ensure that the water in a cell is not allowed to freeze. For this our AD series turns out to be a perfect solution as well. Deployed at a 35F set point, our AD series switches have been used to initiate anti-freeze protection extending the useful temperature range of outdoor fuel cells.
Our AD series also offers flexible off the shelf mounting options as well as customizable lead lengths. And for those who need something more, our engineering team is able to handle custom features.
Please call our team today for a consultation on your Fuel Cell Application.
Make The "Switch" to CPI
If your momentary switch application demands high performance, we think you should demand CPI. Please call us today to speak with our engineering team about your needs.