Fuel Cells

Methanol is used as a key component in the development of different types of fuel cells - which are quickly expanding to play a larger role in our energy economy.  From large-scale fuel cells to power vehicles or provide back-up power to remote equipment, to portable fuel cells for electronics and personal use, methanol is an ideal hydrogen carrier.  With a chemical formula of CH3OH, has more hydrogen atoms in each gallon than any other liquid that is stable in normal conditions.

There are two main types of methanol fuel cells, Direct Methanol Fuel Cells and Reformed Methanol Fuel Cells.

Direct Methanol Fuel Cells

Direct-methanol fuel cells or DMFCs are a subcategory of proton-exchange fuel cells in which methanol is used as the fuel. Their main advantages are the ease of transport of methanol, an energy-dense yet reasonably stable liquid at all environmental conditions, and the lack of complex steam reforming (used to generate hydrogen from fossil fuels) operations. Efficiency is low compared to other fuel cells, so they are targeted especially to portable applications, where energy and power density are more important than efficiency.  The waste product from these fuel cells is carbon dioxide and water vapor.

Reformed Methanol Fuel Cell

Reformed Methanol Fuel Cell (RMFC) or Indirect Methanol Fuel Cell (IMFC) systems are a subcategory of proton-exchange fuel cells where, the fuel, methanol (CH3OH), is reformed, before being fed into the fuel cell. RMFC systems offer advantages over direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) systems including higher efficiency, smaller cell stacks, no water management, better operation at low temperatures, and storage at sub-zero temperatures because methanol is a liquid from -97.0 °C to 64.7 °C (-142.6 °F to 148.5 °F). The tradeoff is that RMFC systems operate at hotter temperatures and therefore need more advanced heat management and insulation. The waste products with these types of fuel cells is also only carbon dioxide and water.

For more information about methanol fuel cells, please visit our Energy Resources page.