Ontario, Oct. 8, 2002 — With the use of noiseless, odourless, non-polluting fuel cell electric generating systems nearing commercialization, two leading technologies will be competing aggressively for the varied markets now emerging, according to Jiri K. Nor, President of Astris Energi Inc., a pioneering developer of alkaline fuel cells, one of the two contenders.
Nine prospective users of fuel cells in that many countries around the world all have “put their chips” on alkaline technology, Nor said, and have come to Astris to meet their needs. Alkaline cells have supplied electricity and drinking water for astronauts on all manned space missions, he noted.
Meanwhile, a score of U.S. and Canadian companies all have followed this continent’s largest fuel cell developer, Ballard Power, into Proton-Exchange-Membrane (PEM) technology. Now other companies, both here and abroad — attracted by the tremendous fuel cell markets looming for industrial power, residential electricity and vehicles both large and small — must decide whether to go alkaline or PEM.
A review of the technical literature leads one to favor alkaline for a half-dozen economic and operating reasons, Nor says. AFCs are more efficient, start instantly and operate over a wide temperature range, while PEM cells do not function below freezing; PEMs require expensive platinum as a catalyst while AFCs may do with only cheap base metals. AFCs are also cheaper to build because they use carbon, plastic and other inexpensive materials.
As the representative of a leading European system developer told Nor, “We don’t understand why America has gone PEM while the rest of us have gone alkaline.”
With the many looming applications for fuel cell technology, both systems will surely find wide use, Nor said. But while investors wanting a stake in the burgeoning fuel cell industry must try to pick a winner from more than a dozen developers of PEM systems, Astris Energi is the only publicly-owned pure investment in alkaline technology available.
Source: Astris Energi Inc.