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Fuel Cell Membrane Market Update

To reverse the damage to the environment caused by the indiscriminate use of fossil fuels, scientists have been actively working on upgrading membranes for fuel cells, which may well compete with petroleum-based energy sources in the transportation markets. These enhanced membranes will also sequester carbon dioxide to reduce the greenhouse effect and global warming.

According to a report from Frost & Sullivan, European companies are working on building fuel cell power plants for 50 MW nominal power, 200 MW rated fuel cell peak power, 60 percent electric efficiency, zero emissions and 40,000 hours of fuel cell operating time without maintenance. Effective after 2005, Europe will require all fuels to have less than 1 percent benzene. (Some companies have already developed a pervaporation membrane technology that removes benzene from aliphatics.) European companies have been collaborating to develop fuel cells with a measured electric efficiency operating in real-life conditions. The results of some of these ventures are hydrogen-powered polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells. Apart from promoting these advancements, developers of membrane separation technologies must ensure their solutions are commercially viable. Currently, adoption has been restrained because the cost of meeting validation requirements for water/wastewater systems adds to the cost of membrane systems, making their installation prohibitive. Leading companies have been working on solutions to improve membrane flux in membrane bioreactors. For instance, the PermaCare MPE50 has demonstrated fouling reduction and flux improvement of 30 to 100 percent in industrial and municipal wastewater treatment applications, respectively. The significant improvements made in membrane technology and reduction in energy consumption by 20 to 30 percent over the last 10 years have gone a long way in promoting the use of membrane separation technologies. Advances in Membrane Separation, part of the Chemicals, Materials and Foods vertical subscription service, is a study by Frost & Sullivan that covers markets including water and wastewater treatment, medical and related applications, industrial processing, chemical and petrochemical applications and energy and environmental applications.