Watlow Helps a Fuel Cell Developer to Solve Thermal Management Problems


The R&D division of a fuel cell development company originally contacted Watlow some years ago regarding problems they were having with cartridge heater burn out.


The cartridge heaters were used in high temperature fuel cell stacks and assemblies to keep the molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC) pack operating properly. The competitor's heaters were burning out frequently, costing them substantial costs in development delays. The normal operating temperatures were over 650°C. The customer worked with Watlow because we were able to analyze the reasons for premature failure and supply a product that met their requirements. As a result, development and testing delays were eliminated due to the substantially increased life and reliability Watlow's HT FIREROD® cartridge heaters offered.


Based on this success, this same customer contacted Watlow again with a request for help in another fuel cell application. Their fuel cell power plant was not operating properly and efficiencies were lower than expected. Watlow worked with the customer and discovered the root cause of the problem was that the inlet air temperature was not reaching a minimum of 725°C, thus causing start up and operational problems. The existing electric circulation heater systems provided by a competitor and not sized properly. This is what was causing the problem. Watlow recommended a high temperature booster heater and control panel solution. This was recommended because replacing the existing solution would have been cost prohibitive.

The final heater and control solution was required to meet pressure requirements, sizing constraints and stringent local codes. Once installed, Watlow worked with the customer to fine-tune the control parameters for both the original system as well as the boost heat system to ensure optimal performance and long heater and system life.