Fuel cell systems are the most efficient form of power generator in existence today. They function without moving parts using a catalyst and electrolyte material arrayed in layered stacks to facilitate a non-combustive fuel oxidation reaction that turns the latent energy of a fuel directly into electricity with some by-product waste heat and, in the case of hydrogen based fuel cells, by-product distilled water. Though invented in the 1830s and long employed in applications such as spacecraft power systems. widespread use of full cell systems has long been hampered by the complications and costs of its catalytic and electrolyte materials -particularly platinum. But in the past 20 years applications have greatly expanded as demand for efficient low-pollution energy systems has grown and costs have been incrementally shaved down thanks to advances in materials science and improved understanding of fuel cell physics. Though still a more expensive option in most applications, fuel cells today power hospitals, telecom centers, police stations, office buildings, and homes and a steadily growing number of vehicles including cars and busses, trains, ships, and submarines.
The Utilihab Fuel Cell unit is a home power system largely the same as the the Utilihab Microturbine in function and designed for indoor installation. It is a hydrogen fuel cell system that employs a fuel reformer stage converting natural gas to hydrogen (thus bringing the otherwise compact system to about the same size as the Microturbine), though it can also optionally run on hydrogen alone. Future systems may run directly on natural gas or fuels like methanol without a reformer. Like the Microturbine, the fuel cell is a cogeneration system which can be linked to all Utilihab hydronic heating and absorption cooling systems.