FLUIDCELL aims the Proof of Concept of an advanced high performance, cost effective bio-ethanol micro Combined Heat and Power cogeneration Fuel Cell system for decentralized off-grid applications. 

The main focus of FluidCELL is to develop a new bio-ethanol membrane reformer for pure hydrogen production (3.5 Nm3/h) based on Catalytic Membrane Reactors in order to intensify the process of hydrogen production through the integration of reforming and purification in one single unit. The novel reactor will be more efficient than the state-of-the-art technology due to an optimal design aimed at circumventing mass and heat transfer resistances. Moreover, the design and optimization of the subcomponents for the BoP will be also addressed. Particular attention will be devoted to the optimized thermal integration that will improve the overall efficiency of the system at >90% and reducing the cost due to low temperature reforming.

This general objective is directly related to the development of the novel catalytic membrane reactor (CMR) for hydrogen production with:

  • Improved performance (high conversion at low temperature for the autothermal reforming reaction)
  • Enhanced efficiency (electrical efficiency of > 40 % compared to conventional 34 %)
  • Lifetime ambition (>40,000 hours) under CHP system working conditions
  • Extremely reduced CO2 emissions compared to conventional fossil fuels.
  • Good recyclability of its individual components and safety aspects for its integration in domestic CHP systems. 

The technical objectives on component level needed to achieve these goals with the bio-ethanol Catalytic Membrane Reformer based m-CHP system are the following:

  • Application of advanced, active and selective, catalysts under moderate (< 500ºC) conditions and reduced cost.
  • Application of new hydrogen permeable membrane materials with improved separation properties, long durability, and with reduced cost, to be used under reaction conditions. 
  • To assess the large-scale production of the membrane development.
  • Understand the fundamental physico-chemical mechanisms and the relationship between structure/property/performance and manufacturing process in membranes and catalysts, in order to achieve radical improvements in membrane reactors.
  • To design, model and build up novel more efficient (e.g.

    reducing the number of steps) bioethanol catalytic membrane reactor configurations based on the new membranes and catalysts for small-scale pure hydrogen production (3.5 Nm3/h of hydrogen).

  • To validate the new membrane reactor configurations, and design a semi-industrial Reforming prototype for pure hydrogen production (3.5 Nm3/h).
  • To improve the cost efficiency of membrane reactors by increasing their performance, decreasing the raw materials consumption and the associated energy losses.

Other technical objectives are related to the integration and validation of the bioethanol reformer into the PEM fuel cell CHP system and the proof of concept of the new m-CHP:

  • To design, model and build the optimum m-CHP system (aided by simulation tools) in order to achieve a complete system able to achieve the targets in performance and cost.
  • To reduce the overall costs of the system by working at lower temperatures (< 500ºC) than in conventional ethanol and natural gas reforming processes (> 650ºC - usually CH4 is obtained as by-product requiring temperatures > 800ºC as in Natural gas- and 800ºC respectively) and in novel catalytic membrane reactors for natural gas reforming processes (i.e. ReforCELL, at 600 - 650ºC).
  • To reduce the overall costs of the system by working with the most advance technology in PEM fuel cells.
  • To test the reliability of the novel reactor with a Fuel Cell m-CHP system.
  • To prove the performance and viability of the novel m-CHP system.
  • To assess the health, safety and environmental impact of the system developed, including a complete Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of the developed system.

The FluidCELL project structure is broken down in ten work packages following the focus on efficiency improvement of the overall m-CHP system based on PEM fuel cell and innovative bioethanol fuel processor. Furthermore, materials and component developments will be implemented in CHP for proof of concept. Therefore, the work structure is detailed in the following figure:


The key milestones or deliverables in the frame of the project are the validation of the lab-scale reactors at month 24, the validation of the pilot scale prototype at month 30 and the validation of the m-CHP system at month 36.