> Home > Technologies > Fuel Cell Power

Fuel Cell

A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity. The process is clean, quiet, and efficient. A byproduct of the process is water, however, which can be a problem for deployments in a polar environment. The technology is still in its infancy, but commercial products are becoming available.  Some systems have operated under controlled environmental conditions for limited periods of time. Portable systems are being provided to the military as replacements for rechargable battery packs.

Fuel cells have been of interest because their fuel is more benign to the environment that traditional gasoline or
diesel fuel. The hydrogen used for fuel is either provided directly under pressure or derived from other forms, such as methane. Safety regulations often set restrictions on the amount of fuel to be stored or transported.

With water as a major byproduct, there is a major concern for ice formation in polar environments. Either the use of fuel cells needs to be restricted to warmer seasons or heaters, driven by backup power sources, are needed to raise the temperature of the fuel cell high enough for operation.

Fuel Cell-powered Communications Node

SRI International has been developing a communications node to support data transfers from the Imnavait Creek research area on the North Slope of Alaska. The node will provide terrestrial communications to the research towers using IEEE 802.11 wireless local area network technology. An Internet connection will be provided by a HugheNet satellite dish and mode for broadband communications to the geostationary satellite.  This link will be schedule to operate for as little as one half hour in the winter, when power resources are scarce, and up to continuous operation when solar energy is sufficient to power the system.  The prime power source for winter operations is a Smart Fuel Cells EFOY Pro 65-Watt methanol fuel cell. Pictures of the system under development can be found here.   Fuel cell-powered communications node

Please visit the Links and Wiki sections for more information on this technology.