Regenerative Fuel Cells
A regenerative fuel cell (RFC) is a hydrogen accumulator which is charged via an electrolyzer (electricity conversion into H2) and discharged via the fuel cell (H2 conversion into electricity), where the storage media is pressurized hydrogen. The also generated oxygen is mostly not stored in terrestrial applications. There are discrete RFCs (DRFC) consisting of two separate stacks (electrolyzer and fuel cell) and unitized RFCs (URFC) with one single stack working during charge in electrolysis mode and during discharge in fuel cell mode. URFCs show a high specific energy up to 1500 Wh kg−1. Furthermore, it is possible to optimize the power and energy of the system independently, which is important for seasonal storage of larger amounts of energy. In contrast to conventional electrochemical accumulators the discharge power of RFCs is unaffected by the state-of-charge of the system. But unfortunately, due to the long conversion chain with associated losses, RFCs generally have low levels of efficiency compared to conventional electrochemical accumulators. The high specific energy of URFCs makes the system interesting for niche applications in military and space areas where efficiency and related costs are not primary parameters. For civil terrestrial applications, however, costs and electrical efficiency are mostly primary parameters. DRFCs are preferred since the individual stacks (EL, FC) can be better optimized. However, for the time being, there are existing no commercial applications of RFCs, as they are not really competitive, especially not with electrochemical accumulators. In the future could be electricity storage with RFCs possible in off-grid or island applications in which a high level of autonomy is required but also in grid application with high share of renewables to stabilized power supply. In a broader sense are power-to-gas storage systems identically with DRFCs. Power-to-gas technologies and therefore also electrolyzers currently are developing strongly which will decreases the costs and increases the efficiency of RFC as well. The RFC technology is in the moment proton exchange membranes based, but they are relatively costly caused by use of platin group metal catalysts. Alkaline-RFCs could reduce the cost by using non-platin group metal catalysts. Because Alkaline-RFCs show an unsatisfactory performance and poor cyclability, therefore, the development is still in an initial stage. The efficiency of PEM-RFCs (URFC max. 35%, DRFC max. 40%) is relatively low. Higher efficiencies, however, show SO-RFCs. SO-URFCs already reach today in an early development state ca. 45% efficiency and could be used also in terrestrial applications.