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  #1  
Old 11-08-2006
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Fuel Cell on a sailboat

Has anyone tried to hook up a fuel cell on their sailboat? I have done some research and found a fuel cell stack for $3,250 at:

http://www.fuelcellstore.com/cgi-bin/
fuelweb/view=Item/cat=26/product=1036

The rated production is 200W at 24V at a max of 300W at 24V, and it would take some ingenuity to put one together with a hydrogen tank, however
it seems to be the most affordable route to go for fuel cell power
on a sailboat. A hydrogen pony tank 20cf could be aquired fairly reasonably from a local welding supply and then hooked in. I also have a couple of links that tell a little bit about how one of these fuel cells work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell
http://www.howstuffworks.com/fuel-cell.htm

On the technical side of things the fuel cell only requires H2 Pressure: 2.9-4.35 PSI so it's just like blowing a breeze through the stack so the hoses wouldn't have to be high pressure ones, it would also seem that a welding regulator would be required to ensure the right pressure is being released from the hydrogen bottle.

The advantages to a settup like this would be 400W (after 12V conversion) with little noise. A small fuel cell would be easy to store and wouldn't produce the noise/smell of a generator.

Best Regards,
Windinthesails

Last edited by Windinthesails; 11-09-2006 at 03:43 AM.
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It is a great idea, but:

1. Fuel cells do not do well unless they are supplying a constant load, that is to say the don't follow load changes very well. OK if you are only using it to charge batteries, but not so good if other loads might be switched on during operation.

2. It is very difficult to put a practical quantity of hydrogen into a reasonable size tank. That is why the vehicle demonstrations have had such high pressure fuel tanks. (Up to 8000 psi) The alternative is to fill up with cryogenic liquid. (Liquid H2)

3. You can generate hydrogen at sea by electrolysis. It will require that you expend some electric power. You will get hydrogen at one electrode and oxygen at the other. Very dangerous! Hydrogen has an extremely wide explosive range, and about the lowest ignition energy of any fuel. It can self ignite from friction encountered in passing through a leaking pipe. If it doesn't explode, it burns with an invisible flame.
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Old 11-08-2006
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btrayfors will become famous soon enough btrayfors will become famous soon enough
I don't know a damned thing about fuel cells, but if it produces "200W at 24V at a max of 300W at 24V" I don't think it's going to produce "400W (after 12V conversion)".

Watts is a measure of energy (volts times amps). You can't double the energy production (watts) by halving the volts. Rather, you'd double the amps and have the same total energy output (watts).

Bill
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Old 11-08-2006
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Fuel Cell Viability

As far as hydrogen storage goes, 2 different tanks are available through
Praxair at:

http://www.praxair.com/praxair.nsf/AllContent/
B2973104A60BF94685256CE3007BBAEF?OpenDocument
&URLMenuBranch=876DC39B3DED2AF28525706F005863A7

The pressure in the tanks is 2000 Pounds per square inche gas (psig).
The sizes are 65 ft3 and 195 ft3. I also know that I have rented a small
hydrogen tank from Lynde welding supply before with similar dimensions.
The cost for the hydrogen is at $15 for 100 ft3.

When you consider the rate of use there is a diagram that shows the
usage rate of these tanks on a much larger fuel cell at
4 Hours for the 65 ft3 tank & 11.5 Hours 195 ft3. The diagram is located at:
http://www.fuelcellstore.com/products/
ballard/cylinders.html


Since the Coleman fuel cell they are using has a much higher usage rate
than the fuel cell I have mentioned in this thread it may be possible
to get 2-3xs the time usage on each tank.

Goodnewsboy very good point on the dangers of hydrogen I have scrounged on
the internet and found a couple of websites regarding gas
monitoring instrumentation. I know from experience that hydrogen
is dangerous, and I mean hey remember the Space Shuttle Columbia?
Also nice point on the need for steady/no spike usage of fuel cells,
I hadn't heard it put that way.

Btrayfors as far as watt to amp conversion math is
12 watts/12 volts = 1 amp
12 watts/24 volts = 1/2 amp
200 watts/24 volts = 8.33 amps
200 watts/12 volts = 16.66 amps
400 watts/12 volts = 8.33 amps

Btrayfors you just take your math a step further. However converting
24v to 12v would likely have a 10% loss in the conversion.

Best Regards,
Windinthesails

Last edited by Windinthesails; 11-09-2006 at 03:44 AM.
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btrayfors will become famous soon enough btrayfors will become famous soon enough
"I am making the assumption that the watt increase would happen at the point of use after an inverter/battery so the wattage increase would be possible. Conversion would not likely produce higher wattage at the output side of the fuel cell so you are technically correct."

Sorry, that's fuzzy logic.

You can't increase wattage (energy output) "after use of an inverter/battery".

Energy is energy, and you can't increase it by simply converting it from one voltage to another. In fact, you'll lose a bit during the conversion process and will NOT be able to recover that loss.

If you find a way to increase energy output through conversion, you'll be soon rich enough to buy any fuel cell one can imagine....and a whole fleet of yachts to use them :-))

Regards,

Bill
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Old 11-08-2006
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sailingdog is just really nice sailingdog is just really nice sailingdog is just really nice sailingdog is just really nice sailingdog is just really nice
A better fuel cell for a boat would be one that works off of methanol. It'd be far easier and safer to store methanol than hydrogen.
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Fuel Cell on a Sail Boat

Btrayfors, In my original thread when I said that the fuel cell would produce
400 Watts after conversion, I was simply wrong. You are right
it would increase the amps.

Sailingdog I checked out methanol fuel cells and simply couldn't find one in the same price range, output, and size as the one I listed in the first posting of the thread. The one I listed was the one that seemed to have the highest value for the dollar.

Best Regards,
Windinthesails

Last edited by Windinthesails; 11-08-2006 at 10:53 PM.
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Don't know about methanol for fuel cells. Seems like it might be better to burn it directly in a spark ignition engine.

I can recite the little rhyme about DC electric power that works regardless of voltage;

"Twinkle, twinkle little star, power equals I squared R" (Where I is current in amps and R is resistance of the load in ohms.)

or Power = I^2 * R

Last edited by Goodnewsboy; 11-08-2006 at 10:54 PM.
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Fuel Cell on a Sailboat

Goodnewsboy, of course a generator gets more bang for the dollar. Personally I would probably choose a generator myself, even in the $3k range a fuel cell is expensive and doesn’t have the output of a generator. I do think fuel cells in the $3K price range are starting to get practical enough to actually use.

However, a fuel cell does make up for some of the drawbacks of a generator such as noise/fumes. If you are sailing a boat the advantages of sailing are listening to the waves hitting the boat and not having a motor running all the time. I mean if you wanted the drone of a motor all the time why not get a powerboat?

Thanks for the: Power = I^2 * R


Best Regards,
Windinthesails
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Hi Windinthesails:
Didn't mean that I advocated an engine generator. Just meant to say that methanol probably needs to be put through a reformer to make the hydrogen that most fuel cells prefer. That means complication.
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