Exergetic analysis and optimization of a solar-powered reformed methanol fuel cell micro-powerplant
The present study proposes a combination of solar-powered components (two heaters, an evaporator, and a steam reformer) with a proton exchange membrane fuel cell to form a powerplant that converts methanol to electricity. The solar radiation heats up the mass flows of methanol-water mixture and air and sustains the endothermic methanol steam reformer at a sufficient reaction temperature (typically between 220 and 300 °C). In order to compare the different types of energy (thermal, chemical, and electrical), an exergetic analysis is applied to the entire system, considering only the useful part of energy that can be converted to work. The effect of the solar radiation intensity and of different operational and geometrical parameters like the total inlet flow rate of methanol-water mixture, the size of the fuel cell, and the cell voltage on the performance of the entire system is investigated. The total exergetic efficiency comparing the electrical power output with the exergy input in form of chemical and solar exergy reaches values of up to 35%, while the exergetic efficiency only accounting for the conversion of chemical fuel to electricity (and neglecting the 'cost-free' solar input) is increased up to 59%. At the same time, an electrical power density per irradiated area of more than 920 W m-2 is obtained for a solar heat flux of 1000 W m-2. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Hotz, N; Zimmerman, R; Weinmueller, C; Lee, MT; Grigoropoulos, CP; Rosengarten, G; Poulikakos, D
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