Project ALKAMMONIA will integrate three innovative and proven technologies: a highly efficient and low-cost alkaline fuel cell system, a highly efficient fuel processing system and a novel ammonia fuel system. The integrated system will be rigorously tested and the results shared with leading telecommunication end-users.
In order to meet the ever increasing demand for improved signal coverage and bandwidth for mobile telecommunications in remote parts of the world, project ALKAMMONIA will develop a commercially viable and reliably operating proof-of-concept alkaline fuel cell system as a real alternative to conventional, diesel-powered generators. These diesel generators pose several problems: greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions, high operating and maintenance costs, regular fuel and generator theft and noise. The shortcomings of generators can be overcome if they are replaced by highly efficient and low-cost alkaline fuel cells in combination with a novel, practically emission free ammonia fuel system.
The idea of using ammonia (chemical formula NH3) as a fuel is well known. The most significant advantage of using ammonia as a fuel is that local CO2 emissions are completely avoided. Ammonia is one of the most widely produced chemicals in the world, used for many processes and applications. Due to its many uses, ammonia is readily available in nearly all parts of the world.
Ammonia can be split into its constituents, nitrogen and hydrogen. This gas mixture can efficiently be converted into electricity using a fuel cell. In contrast to fossil fuels, which need a complex reforming process in order to produce a hydrogen rich gas, the splitting of ammonia – usually termed ‘cracking’ – is a very simple and efficient process. Ammonia has a very high energy density even at low pressures when compared to hydrogen. This makes it economic to transport and a very attractive energy carrier in the growing hydrogen economy.
Alkaline fuel cells (AFC) are ideally suited to run on ammonia since, in contrast to acidic fuel cells such as PEM, the alkaline nature of NH3 does not harm the AFC. AFCs can operate directly using cracked ammonia, avoiding the need for an expensive hydrogen ‘cleanup step’. This increases system efficiency and decreases capital and operational costs. With efficiencies of over 60% at full load conditions, AFC Energy’s proprietary AFC system will be a cost effective fuel cell system.
Project ALKAMMONIA received generous funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), managed by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No. 325343.