Fuel Cell Market Powering Up


The fuel cell market is expected to reach more than $18.6 billion by 2013, and could hit almost $35 billion by that time, according to a new report. Residential and small stationary applications are the latest target for manufacturers, researchers say.

The report, "Fuel Cell Technology and Market Potential 2006," was developed by Dublin, Ireland-based Research and Markets. Automotive, stationary and portable applications will provide the majority of sales.

Proton exchange membrane products remain dominant in the overall market, the study reports, with molten carbonate cells taking the lead in larger installations. Sales of phosphoric acid fuel cells were static through 2005, researchers say; however, product advances expected within the next few years could boost the lifespan of these units to 80,000 operating hours—and raise sales accordingly.

Solid oxide technology has yet to make a big break into real-world applications, report authors state. However, they note that several manufacturers are considering commercialization of new products in the residential/small stationary market.

One new technology now under development would eliminate the need for membranes and expensive catalysts. Researchers at Oxford University are using electrodes coated with an enzyme that is more tolerant of gases, such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide, that can poison traditional catalysts. The enzymes are capable of drawing hydrogen and oxygen from the surrounding atmosphere, without requiring another fuel source. So far, the scientists have used the technique to power a digital watch.

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