May 22, 2023
Recently the United Nations (UN) General Assembly announced it would look to the International Court of Justice to define the obligations of other countries to address climate change. Speaking ahead of the vote, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres referred to a recent report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which suggests it’s still possible to limit global warming to 1.5 ̊C above pre-industrial levels, but we’re running out of time.1
Hydrogen is one of the many viable solutions to help lower carbon emissions and decelerate global warming. It’s a versatile, plentiful gas that, when subject to certain chemical processes, generates electricity. However, it does not occur naturally and must be extracted and converted from water or other substances.2 The resulting hydrogen can then be used to generate clean energy without any greenhouse gas emissions using fuel cells.
Dr. Bernhard Wienk-Borgert, co-founder and CTO of Globe Fuel Cell Systems, is passionate about his work with hydrogen fuel cells and the positive impact this technology can have on the environment. Wienk-Borgert sees both responsibility and opportunity in the development of fuel cells and fuel cell systems.
“We currently have the knowledge and the technology to do more for the environment,” says Wienk-Borgert. “Globe is setting this idea in motion through our vision for intelligent, modular energy systems linked to the cloud based solely on fuel cell technology. For us, Ansys simulation helps find scaling opportunities all along the design chain that can drive down the cost of fuel cell system development by as much as $150,000 and help us bring our hydrogen technology to market much faster.”
The fuel cell technology company works from a blank canvas using simulation to define its forward-thinking fuel cell applications and systems, as well as those specific to the needs of its customers with support from Ansys, and Ansys Channel Partner CADFEM.
Globe’s own flagship product is the XLP-80, a hybrid hydrogen fuel cell system that, when paired with a lithium-ion battery, offers a high-power output energy solution to support carbon-neutral objectives. It’s specifically designed for intralogistics involving the optimization and automation of every piece of information within industrial spaces, including distribution centers, warehouses, and airports.
Unlike other fuel cell applications, the XLP-80’s hybrid fuel cell/lithium-ion battery combination can be refueled in less than five minutes, reducing downtime due to charging and eliminating costly battery changes for increased productivity.
Globe’s closed three-loop hybrid hydrogen fuel cell system consists of a cathode loop, which moves air from the system input to the stack; an anode loop, also known as the hydrogen loop; and a cooling loop. Overall system integrity is a function of thermal management. For the Globe team, simulation is the bridge to understanding the fluid dynamics involved in the fuel cell system environment, enabling precise calculations for air and coolant flow, temperature, and pressure drops that lead to safer, more stable system designs.
To execute Globe’s fuel cell system design first requires the careful selection of components from various suppliers. Working from a specific requirements sheet, the team analyzes numerous market components to determine their viability for a specific application. Carefully weighing this intel against supplier feedback, they then make their final selections.
“Much of the preliminary work during fuel cell system development involves identifying a component and trying to match it with simulation,” says Wienk-Borgert. “This process helps us identify if it’s really working for us, or if it’s not going to satisfy our system requirements. Regardless of the outcome, the big takeaway is that by using simulation, we are able to come to this decision very early in the development process, which is beneficial to us and our suppliers.”
Just because a component makes the final cut doesn’t mean it’s perfectly aligned with Globe’s fuel cell system requirements. For example, a component at 95% mass flow may still work. This is where use of Ansys tools is invaluable. Simulation helps Globe sort through the ambiguity with accurate analysis of a component’s potential, which ultimately informs the choice of supplier.
Once every component is in place, the Globe team simulates the individual system loop, each unique component, and, finally, the entire closed-loop system. Ansys SpaceClaim is then used to prepare the geometry for meshing to make it suitable for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling in Ansys Fluent — the key to calculating and validating a variety of fluids phenomena in Globe’s closed loop system. Ansys Mechanical is also used for structural analysis of the overall fuel cell system design.
Because cooling is one of the key features of Globe’s fuel cell system, the team tested the cooling loop first. Results coming out of simulation were used to achieve a specific delta temperature — something that is very important for thermal management of the fuel stack. Establishing this requirement helps determine how much air flow is required throughout the entire system to achieve it. Finally, packaging of the entire system is simulated to achieve an optimized system design.
“Ansys software helps us find definitive answers to many questions that lead to faster fuel cell system optimization,” says Wienk-Borgert. “When we’re done the whole loop, for example, we come away not only with an understanding of individual loop output, but how it will perform as part of the entire closed loop system.”
Perhaps the biggest benefit of digital testing for Globe during hydrogen fuel cell system validation is the ability to minimize both the complexity and cost of working with a physical test loop, which requires a prototype of the entire system bolted together. With simulation, it is possible for the team to arrive at the same conclusion after just one round of testing as opposed to three — information that can be easily shared digitally among teams.
“Simulation is really giving us the chance to reduce the amount of physical testing, as well as the complexity and number of physical prototypes we have to build up to understand the different conditions and the different physical values we want attain,” says Wienk-Borgert. “We don't need a subsystem or a loop test stand, which saves us money in the end.”
Time savings realized during simulation also extends to the level of communication that occurs between teams during development. In the past, implementing a stack module or a water pump, for example, required three rounds of physical testing and a lot of back and forth from the packaging team to determine whether or not a component was actually satisfying initial requirements.
In the end, simulation is much more conducive to Globe’s agile approach to fuel cell system development. It offers definitive, real-time data throughout the development process that can be effortlessly shared among all project stakeholders. Seamless data exchange brings various teams together, enabling greater collaboration through digitization.
There’s no confusion. Reliable information coming out of simulation reaches teams faster, enabling them to be more adaptable and confidently address issues sooner.