Hydrogen, fuel cells and heat exchangers in renewables

Let’s get in the heart of our month of February dedicated to Renewables in Tempco talking about hydrogen and fuel cells. These are themes becoming very popular, especially for automotive applications in sustainable mobility and green transition in transports. There are indeed many studies on the matter, aimed at deploying fuel cell technology as a valid alternative to actual electric vehicles and to traditional fossil fuel motors.

These are systems for power generation from a renewable and clean source, hydrogen, that can be employed to power electric motors. Applications are different, from cars and buses and every kind of transport vehicles, and also on ships, with significant implications in terms of engineering and plant design.

A full cell system involves indeed a series of thermal transfer tasks, for heating, cooling and energy recovery. The challenge here are the very high temperatures involved in this kind of thermal cycle. It’s then necessary to develop special heat exchangers able to cope with the high temperature levels that are generated in some parts of the cycle. Plate heat exchangers, once again, are the ideal solution in automotive applications of fuel cells thanks to their efficiency and compact shape, ensuring high thermal transfer rates in the narrow installment spaces available.

We’re speaking in particular of special plate heat exchangers that can work with maximum temperatures approximately of 900° C, and in fact a special brazed plate exchangers technology exists which is suitable for this kind of applications. There are thus several implications in these kind of thermal cycles, some of them are even simple and working at quite standard conditions. Heat exchangers for fuel cells also work with deionized water, and so there are implications in terms of materials compatibility, for example AISI 316 is required and resistance to high acidity of water. Especially designed exchangers are therefore required, designed and suited for applications with hydrogen and fuel cells.


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