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A Single-Supplier Solution For Impurity Monitoring In Fuel-Cell Hydrogen

Global efforts to reduce the impact of harmful emissions on the environment have increasingly focused on lowering carbon emissions.  The key to meeting this challenge lies in replacing fossil fuels with alternative, renewable fuel sources, particularly to power vehicles.

Fuel cells offer a uniquely flexible solution in this market and can be used for a wide range of applications, powering systems from laptop computers to utility power stations.  The move to a hydrogen economy is widely regarded as the next step in the global transition towards a zero-emission energy sector. A hydrogen fuel cell uses chemical energy to cleanly and efficiently produce electricity; the only byproducts are water and heat. It can also be combined with electric motors to power a zero-emission vehicle.

While most hydrogen (H2) today is still produced from fossil sources, an established H2 infrastructure allows a future seamless transition to renewable and truly carbon-free H2 production. Fuel cells are also far more efficient than conventional combustion engines while offering a similar range (typically, about 500-700 km). H2 can also be refilled quickly at a fueling station, avoiding the delays of charging a battery-electric vehicle.

However, the performance of a fuel cell is dependent on the purity of the hydrogen. There are multiple impurities that can affect the fuel cell, and their presence and concentration levels depend largely upon the method used to generate the H2.  For example, most hydrogen is produced through steam methane reforming. This process can generate several contaminants ranging from methane and moisture to carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide (CO2). If H2 is created through electrolysis, splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, then moisture and oxygen are the most common contaminants. Additionally, many impurities can come from the atmosphere, mostly nitrogen, oxygen, and moisture.

Eliminating impurities from H2 altogether is not practical. Maintaining an efficient fuel cell requires the presence of these contaminants to be limited to specific levels, set by international purity standards such as ISO 14687 or SAE J2719.

The Easy Way to Ensure Hydrogen Quality

Hydrogen quality is vital for the performance and lifetime of hydrogen fuel cells. There are many critical contaminants for this application, causing many potential issues, including performance reduction, degradation of the proton exchange membrane, or damage to the catalyst. Process Insights offers powerful analytical tools for the measurement of trace amounts of these molecules. The instruments’ ppm- and ppb-level detection limits help ensure compliance with SAE J2719, ISO 14687 and similar purity standards designed to protect fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

Based on powerful Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy (CRDS), all of our analyzers are free of drift, guaranteeing consistent and reliable trace detection for fuel-cell-grade hydrogen in the lab and in the field. Highly specific to the target molecule, CRDS also eliminates cross-interferences. Plus, there is no need to perform costly and time-consuming zero and span calibrations, saving both time and money with continuous, online service.

Our high-performance CRDS analyzers are used in many demanding measurement applications from ultra-high purity electronic gases for semiconductor manufacturing to industrial and medical gases. We have been working for many years with regulators, researchers, and gas manufacturers to develop measurement solutions for fuel-cell hydrogen analysis. CRDS’s versatility makes it possible to use the instruments both in the lab and directly at fueling station, and anywhere along the supply chain, from manufacturing to transportation.

Our quadrupole mass spectrometers (MS) are geared for ultimate performance and allow the detection of multiple contaminants within seconds. With decades of excellence in industrial automation and thousands of installations worldwide, our process mass spectrometers provide the rugged stability and ease-of-use necessary for continuous operation in demanding, mission-critical environments. Offering complete quantitative stream composition measurement, total application coverage, and low cost of ownership, we deliver performance specifications superior to other mass spectrometers and commercial process technologies.

Based on cutting-edge quadrupole mass spectrometer technology, the MAX300-LG has the dynamic range to measure component concentrations from 100% down to the low parts per million (ppm). It provides a full composition update every few seconds to measure changes in dynamic chemical processes. The MAX300-LG has the flexibility and rugged stability necessary for real-time quantitative gas analysis in applications as diverse as catalysis R&D, ambient air monitoring, and bioreactor process control.