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Forschungszentrum Jülich - Annual Report 2012

Usingknowledge Annual Report 2012 | Forschungszentrum Jülich 69 Emergency management agencies as well as fire brigades and police forces must be able to communicate via non-public mobile communications when the power grid is disrupted. With funding from the Helmholtz Validation Fund, Jülich scientists are refining direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) systems to supply mobile base stations with power in emergencies – and do so in a reliable and environmentally friendly manner. They are contributing extensive know- how to this task: for example, they have fitted up DMFCs for use in a type of electrical forklift also referred to as an order picker. “A corresponding fuel cell stack has already been running for more than 20,000 operating hours,” says Dr. Martin Müller, head of DMFCs at Electrochemical Process Engineering in the Institute of Energy and Climate Research. DMFCs convert the chemical energy contained in methanol as a liquid fuel directly into electric current. On the one hand, this makes them an alternative to batteries. One kilogram of methane contains a hundred times more energy than a lead battery with the same weight, so that DMFC systems can be used to cover even lengthy periods without power. It is also easier to fill them and they do not require any time-consuming recharging cycles. On the other hand, DMFC systems also have advantages over diesel aggregates, which are frequently used for emergency power supply today. “In principle, DMFC systems are more reliable and they are suitable for remote maintenance,” says Müller. They are also quiet and emit less local air pollutants. The Helmholtz Association validation fund enables scientists to advance their research results to a point where their value is increased and it becomes possi- ble to launch the product on the market. In the next two years, Jülich’s fuel cell Emergency power supply with fuel cells experts will ensure above all that the DMFC systems start reliably even after a long downtime and achieve a lifetime of at least ten years. They will also continue to reduce the cost of DMFCs. The scientists have initially set their minds on the market that has emerged from the changeover of public safety radio to digital technology and the oper- ation of the necessary base stations. But they are also looking further into the future: “Mobile base stations will be increasingly supplied with power from wind or solar energy. During periods without wind and sunshine, DMFC systems could take up the slack,” says Müller. Power outages jeopard- ize mobile communica- tions – and therefore a lifeline of modern society. DMFC systems (bottom) could in future become responsible for emergency power supply for base stations. Institute