October 12 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2009 Rating: 5 Hot
[Catch: water is not the fuel]
Horizon Fuel Cell’s future is based on an elegant idea – water powered electric devices. Their HydroPak portable generator units are designed for early markets around military, medical, telecommunication, building management, and industrial customers.
Fuel cells are basically advanced refillable batteries that convert chemical energy into electrical energy. The technology is taking longer than expected to commercialize, but they are coming.
Horizon uses a hydrogen rich chemical hydride (NaBH4) to power the device. This fuel was developed by Millennium Cell which formed a strategic partnership in an equity swap with Horizon last year.
The water is only part of the reaction to release the chemical energy. Water is less a fuel, than it is a reactant. So the product’s appeal uses a bit of trick marketing!!
‘Water’ powered sounds better than ‘chemical hydride’ powered!
Video credit: DigInfo
What’s happening? How does water create electricity?
Fuel cells for toys? And what about methanol fuel cells?
Fuel cells grab electrons from hydrogen vs gasoline engines that blow up carbon-hydrogen bonds.
Horizon’s fuel cell isn’t powered by water.
The water isn’t the ‘fuel’. The fuel is already in the box.
The company puts a hydrogen rich fuel inside the container. The water reacts with the material and a special catalyst releases the hydrogen to power the fuel cell’s electricity.
[More on chemical hydrogen storage]
Competition: Direct Methanol micro fuel cells
The Horizon method of ‘adding water’ is appealing, but the chemical reactions have its challenges.
Beyond chemical hydrides, there is greater movement around Direct Methanol Micro fuel cells (DMFCs) and most analysts expect DMFCs to power consumer gadgets.
But Horizon might be setting up for a different market position?
The toy battery market.
Beyond the chemistry, the main challenge might be avoiding ‘chemical hydride’ from developing a bad reputation with consumers and kids.
If chemical hydride toys don’t catch on, Horizon can always turn to their first product based on hydrogen from solar energy.
Image source: Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies
Additional Video: Information Week phones.