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Proton exchange membrane


Technology Description

This type of vessel is operated by a hydrogen fuel cell. Due to limited power output, this technology is likely to be used preferably for small and medium vessels, as currently proven by on-going demonstrations.
Different fuel-cell types exist and their names reflect the materials used in the electrolyte membrane.
DNV GL evaluated 7 fuel-cell technologies and concluded that the following are the most promising for maritime applications:
According to the study from DNV-GL, the proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell is considered a mature technology. Its operating temperature is 50-100 °C, and has a typical efficiency of 50-60% and a moderate lifetime. It has medium sensitivity to impurity, thus requiring hydrogen as a fuel, and a low cost (compared to other fuel cell technologies for maritime applications).
Manufacturing compact fuel cells with high output power is quite challenging. This technology is therefore likely to be used preferably for small and medium vessels.

Relevance for Net Zero

Fuel cells have higher energy efficiency than internal combustion maritime engines - though the gap is not as high as it is in the case of road vehicles - and do not emit pollutants.
While proton exchange membranes (PEMs) are the most widespread fuel cell type for automotive applications, other types of fuel cells such as Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) and alkaline seem more suitable for maritime applications (where high operative temperature requirements do not pose problems) (source: ).
Possible applications could be in short distance inland shipping, rather than in oceangoing vessels.

Key Countries

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