Fuel cells stories are something us reporters write, not every week, but every once in a blue moon. Every time when I look into the subject, I find it fascinating but also equally frustrating. This is the technology that should be here already; but it never seems to be quite here yet.
Although most of us probably do not think of Rohm when we think about fuel cells (at least not yet), it would be interesting to see how big an inroad the Kyoto-based company can make with its technology jointly developed with Aquafairy.
It helps to do the chemical reactions to see what's involved here.
To make calcium hydride, you need to start with calcium chloride, sodium, and hydrogen. So somewhere along the chain of events, you'll either need electricity or you'll need a hydrocarbon fuel, say methane, to exract that hydrogen and make these chewing gum stick-like fuel thingies. (So you're likely going to be creating CO2 in the manufacturing process, is my basic point here. You need to generate H2 in order to make this fuel, which in turn will e releasing H2 when in use.)
CaCl2 + H2 + 2Na --> CaH2 + 2NaCl
So byproducts of this manufacturing process are most likely CO2 and table salt.
Then in use, CaH2 + 2H2O --> Ca(OH)2 + 2H2
So a byproduct in use is calcium hydroxide, which apparently has plenty of uses of its own. Perhaps it can be recycled. Otherwise, it's corrosive.
I can easily see the appeal as emergency power source. The fuel cell which uses this type of fuel makes no noise, unlike the annoyingly loud, typical engine generators. And, no rube goldberg assembly of moving parts.
But equally or more exciting might be, CaH2 can be in powder form, like salt. Like you see in those dissicant pouches. Perhaps then, it could also be used as fuel for fuel-cell EVs. Easier to distribute and to use as fuel in a car than high pressure H2 gas? Although it needs to be kept dry.
Right, but that's like all fuel cells. The "no CO2" showing on the right is a little disingenuous, since you'll be creating CO2, more than likely, in the making of this CaH2 fuel.
That gray block on the left of your graphic is where the CaH2 fuel has water added to it, to make the H2 for the fuel cell. The chemical reactions I posted previously are what is needed to make that CaH2 fuel to begin with.
There certainly is a need for clean, inexpensive, portable emergency backup power. The need, however, is not to charge SmartPhones (which can be charged in a car or run off a small battery) or run 5 Watt LED lights which run for a long time on a battery. Small amounts of backup power (as 12 volts or inverted to 120 volts AC) can also be obtained from the cigarette lighter in a car. We do so every time we have a power failure at home. The need is for power in excess of 1,000 watts (ideally 7,000 watts is needed to run a house) that can run refrigerators (the start-up current is substantial), home heating systems, and the like. Only an emergency backup system with such power levels will have a substantial market.
As you said, CaH2 making process is frustrating. if people can make CaH2 with recycable energy, it will be a little bit better in terms of energy efficiency.
And yes, CaH2 can be in power form, but it strongly reacts with wate to release hydrogen which is very difficult to control. We coating that with special martiral to keep it release hydrogen gradually and keep it safe to use.
@DrQuine: The need is for power in excess of 1,000 watts (ideally 7,000 watts is needed to run a house). As a dedicated home solar power generator, I agree with this statement.
In the perfect world and at an affordable price, I woud like to store my surplus energy in other than lead acid batteries, if i could split H 2 O with electricty to O2 and H2 and use it in a fuel cell during nill geneating hours then I would be a happy bunny.
As it stands now I dump any surplas electricity into the hot water tank, which is best suited to solar water panel heating.
I also heard recently that Rohm bought Kionix to round out its sensor line, taking on sensor big dogs ST and Bosch. Batteries and sensors are both great components for the next big waves in electronics.
As we unveil EE Times’ 2015 Silicon 60 list, journalist & Silicon 60 researcher Peter Clarke hosts a conversation on startups in the electronics industry. Panelists Dan Armbrust (investment firm Silicon Catalyst), Andrew Kau (venture capital firm Walden International), and Stan Boland (successful serial entrepreneur, former CEO of Neul, Icera) join in the live debate.