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When fuel cells produce electricity, they also generate heat that must be evacuated. Micro cogeneration entails recovering the heat and recycling it to produce domestic heat and hot water, for example, eliminating the need for gas-powered hot water heaters in homes.
Researchers at Liten created a model of a home's annual energy needs, alternating low-, medium-, and high-power operation to replicate the kind of cycling that would occur in real-world conditions. They then applied the model to Liten's EPICEA system, which delivers maximum power of 4 KW and equivalent thermal power.
Over the course of the 1,000-hour test, the condition of the equipment and proper functioning of the system were monitored regularly using a variety of measurements, from impedance to polarization curves. And the results were clear: Micro cogeneration does not accelerate fuel-cell aging, and fuel cells tolerate the type of use tested very well. A few minor technical failures on non-essential equipment did occur, but they did not compromise the results, which will be used to develop an algorithm to predict fuel-cell lifespans for this type of operation.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.