Fuel cells hidden inside trolleys used to serve passengers their in-flight drinks could generate enough additional energy to power an airliner's entire galley, according to German researchers. Amy Pollock reports.
INTRO: Fuel cells hidden inside trolleys used to serve passengers their in-flight drinks could generate enough additional energy to power an airliner's entire galley, according to German researchers. Amy Pollock reports. STORY: Passengers on airliners are used to their in-flight snacks coming from the flight attendant's trolley. In the future, that trolley could provide enough power to cook a plane-load of meals. German researchers have been showcasing their portable fuel cell at the Paris Air show. Ronny Knepple is head of energy systems at developer Diehl Aerospace. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF ENERGY SYSTEMS AT DIEHL AEROSPACE, RONNY KNEPPLE, SAYING: "What you see here is an energy generation system with a tank, a reformer, a fuel cell and a battery. The fuel cell hybrid system produces enough power for one galley and if I put it in, you can see the galley is now powered by the trolley." Diehl's humble-looking trolley houses a tank filled with liquid propylene glycol which provides the hydrogen - the fuel source for the battery. Professor Gunther Kolb from Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology is one of the power unit's designers. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FRAUNHOFER, PROF. DR GUNTHER KOLB, SAYING: "the propylene glycol from the tank is evaporated and here in the reformer at high temperature the hydrogen is extracted from the propylene glycol." A catalytic converter in the trolley transforms the toxic by-products of the reaction into carbon dioxide and water. And the compact unit is lighter and smaller than conventional energy systems. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FRAUNHOFER, PROF. DR GUNTHER KOLB, SAYING: "we have used here our special plate heat exchanger technology, which allows us to reduce weight and especially the size of the system considerably. In some cases here, we could save 90 percent of the space required by conventional technology," Planes in service for decades are often refurbished with power-hungry new technology in their galleys. Diehl and its collaborators hope their system will provide an independent power source for increased energy demands. The prototype lighting up the galley in Paris could be seen on airliners