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Fuel Cell Comparison Chart

 

Fuel Cell Type

Common Electrolyte

Operating
Temperature

System Output

Electrical Efficiency

Applications

Advantages

Disadvantages

Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM)

Solid organic polymer poly-perfluorosulfonic acid

50 - 100°C
122 - 212°F

<1kW – 250kW

60% (direct)
25-40% (reformed)

Backup power
Portable power
Small distributed generation
Transportation

Solid electrolyte reduces corrosion & electrolyte management problems
Low temperature
Quick start-up

Requires expensive catalysts
High sensitivity to fuel impurities
Low temperature waste heat
Waste heat temperature not suitable for combined heat and power (CHP)

Direct Methanol

(DMFC)

Solid organic polymer poly-perfluorosulfonic acid

50 - 100°C
122 - 212°F

Up to 1.5kW

20 - 25%

Consumer goods

Laptops

Mobile phones

High energy storage

No reforming needed

Easy storage and transport

Low power output

Methanol is toxic and flammable

Alkaline (AFC)

Aqueous solution of potassium hydroxide soaked in a matrix

90 - 100°C
194 - 212°F

10kW – 100kW

60%

Military
Space

Cathode reaction faster in alkaline electrolyte, higher performance

Expensive removal of CO2 from fuel and air streams required (CO2 degrades the electrolyte)

Phosphoric Acid (PAFC)

Liquid phosphoric acid soaked in a matrix

150 - 200°C
302 - 392°F

50kW – 1MW
(250kW module typical)

32-38%

Distributed generation

Higher overall efficiency with CHP
Increased tolerance to impurities in hydrogen

Requires expensive platinum catalysts
Low current and power
Large size/weight

Molten Carbonate (MCFC)

Liquid solution of lithium, sodium, and/or potassium carbonates soaked in a matrix

600 - 700°C
1112 - 1292°F

<1kW – 1MW
(250kW module typical)

45-47%

Electric utility
Large distributed generation

High efficiency
Fuel flexibility
Can use a variety of catalysts
Suitable for CHP

High temperature speeds corrosion and breakdown of cell components
Complex electrolyte management
Slow start-up

Solid Oxide (SOFC)

Solid zirconium oxide to which a small amount of Yttria is added

650 - 1000°C
1202 - 1832°F

5kW – 3MW

35-43%

Auxiliary power
Electric utility
Large distributed generation

High efficiency
Fuel flexibility
Can use a variety of catalysts
Solid electrolyte reduces electrolyte management problems
Suitable for CHP
Hybrid/GT cycle

High temperature enhances corrosion and breakdown of cell components
Slow start-up
Brittleness of ceramic electrolyte with thermal cycling

Source Mostly US DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) August 2007

 

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