8th February 2006
Following the highly successful visit last year, which was substantially oversubscribed, the repeat party comprised 11 members and1 visitor from I Mech E.
We were welcomed by Bruce Girvan (CEng) Technical Marketing Manager and Matthew Harrington (AIMechE), one of the Development Engineers, who gave an excellent and comprehensive presentation on fuel cells and the development of Ceres Power. On this occasion, due to customer testing, we were unable to visit the test, development and assemblies but still gained a fascinating insight into the principles of fuel cells and their major potential in meeting future energy needs. This was particularly topical against the rapidly changing energy scene both in the UK and worldwide regarding future supply and demand. In addition global warming and the need for improved efficiency in energy use created exciting and challenging opportunities for Ceres Power in bringing their fuel cell products to market.
In the four years since the company was created, it has built on its world-class technology to become a commercially focussed organisation with a very strong intellectual property portfolio. Past year successes have included generating commercial revenues, doubling facilities and staff plus endorsements from the City, government and industrial partners.
Recent accolades have included winning the prestigious Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining Gold Medal and the Carbon Trust Low Carbon Technology of the Year Award. The company has established specific relationships with defined market applications. Associations have been created with major corporations with direct access to end-users of energy, including British Gas for micro-CHP and BOC for off-grid power generation applications.
Fuel cells offer a better way of producing electricity and heat in a highly efficient, quiet and non polluting way, providing opportunities for more secure, sustainable energy supplies worldwide using a variety of fuel types. In the early stages of development, fuel choices were limited to complex systems operating at very high temperatures or vulnerable low temperature systems only able to run on pure hydrogen.
Ceres Power has developed the world’s first commercial metal supported solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) operating at an intermediate temperature of around 500 C and capable of using a range of fuels including LPG, natural gas, methanol, hydrogen and vehicle fuels. These traits provide significant advantages for mass market uses.
In the SOFC oxygen ions from air react with hydrogen or hydrocarbon gases under controlled conditions at high temperatures to produce electricity and heat without combustion. Electrical power from a single cell is typically 3 to 5 watts at 0.7 volts: to obtain useful output levels, fuel cells are assembled into stacks and then into systems. Total system efficiency (LHV fuel in to net AC heat and heat out) is high around 85% compared with 25-45% for conventionally generated electricity.
Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) designs basically comprise a ceramic electrolyte, with oxide cathodes and ceramic -oxide anodes. Ceres achieved a major breakthrough by identifying a method of depositing an oxide electrode on to a stainless steel support. Endurance testing has successfully demonstrated cell reliabilities and levels of 30-40,000 hours are confidently expected.
Ceres Power has identified a number of target applications
Combined heat & power-gas boiler replacement-domestic and business premises
Off-grid power supply- telecoms, farming, residential buildings
Auxiliary power units-secondary power for vehicles, containers & military applications
Uninterruptible power supplies-hospitals, military, computers, banks, domestic and business premises
The Future – Pilot programme aimed at domestic premises commences in 2007-08
Ceres Power was formed in 2001 to exploit the revolutionary fuel cell technology developed by Imperial College. It produces on site, fuel cell components for assembly into fuel cells by its customers. Ceres Power won the Carbon Trust 2003 Innovation Award for the small business category.