Tower of strength

Ammonia-based fuel-cell technology is being pitched to the telecommunications industry as a more effective way of powering communications towers in remote regions.

The concept has been developed by Diverse Energy, which has designed a modular fuel system called the PowerCube to provide power in the 24-48V range for areas without a reliable electricity grid.

Housed in an 8ft (2.4m) steel cube, the system uses ‘ammonia cracker’ technology to convert ammonia to hydrogen for use by twin PEM fuel-cell systems.

The company is targeting developing countries that have low electrification rates. It claims that its use of ammonia is greener than the current diesel standard. Ammonia is also cheap and widely used in the developing world as a refrigerant and fertiliser.

Working alongside the group to test its design, Jon Helliwell from the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) in Redcar said that the PowerCube could be an effective off-grid solution for applications requiring a low base-load power and minimal maintenance.

He added: ‘The use of ammonia as a carrier for hydrogen has been proven on a large scale in the chemical industry. However, the PowerCube is providing a small-scale solution in modularised form that gives an easily transportable power solution for things such as mobile-phone networks and remote monitoring stations.’

Diverse Energy was recently awarded £100,000 by regional development agency One North East to develop the system and is in the process of testing its design at the CPI’s facilities in Wilton.

Ellie Zolfagharifard