Friday, April 18, 2008

Fuel cells, coming to a home near you.

Register Hardware reports: [edited]

Panasonic has begun pitching fuel-cell technology as a new way to provide homes with electricity and cut their consumption of mains-sourced power.

The company said it will put a home-use polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) system into production in June. It claimed the power pack can run for 40,000 hours and 4,000 start-stop cycles - enough for a ten-year operational lifespan.

The PEFC works by combining hydrogen from the fuel and oxygen from the air across a pair of electrodes separated by an electrolyte. The electrolyte forces electrons produced by the reacting hydrogen and oxygen to travel around a circuit as a current. The process also generates heat and water.

Panasonic said its PEFC system has a power generation efficiency of 39 per cent - the world's highest for this technology. The cell has a heat recovery efficiency of 55 per cent.

Homes participating in Panasonic's test programme used the units to generate between 500W and 1kW. Panasonic doesn't expect to begin full-scale commercialisation of the technology until 2009-2010.

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