Microsoft is working to develop ultra-efficient, low-cost fuel cells for data centers

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Microsoft is working to develop ultra-efficient, low-cost fuel cells for data centers

Microsoft is working with Redox Power Systems LLC, the University of Maryland and Trans-Tech Inc in a bid to develop a new type of fuel cell. Having received $5 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the partnership is looking to find a way to reduce the cost associated with fuel cells that produce zero greenhouse gases.

Sean James, Senior Research Program Manager for Microsoft Global Foundation Services said, “Our vision is to bring the power plant directly into the datacenter by integrating fuel cell stacks into every server cabinet, effectively eliminating energy loss that otherwise occurs in the energy supply chain and doubling the efficiency of traditional datacenters.”

Known as transformational fuel cells, there is potential for the cells to be used for heating and cooling houses, and powering data centers. Microsoft will use its own server racks to test fuel cells that are produced — another step on the company’s road to improving sustainability.

Ultimately the fuel cells could be used in distributed generation systems as an alternative to traditional powerplants.

“This will be a major advancement in our fuel cell technology,” said Bryan Blackburn, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Redox. “It will not be incremental. We are working on every aspect of the cell—the anode, the cathode, the electrolyte. The materials will be different. Every single aspect will synergistically come together to form our highest performing, lowest-cost fuel cell.”

Microsoft involvement in the project is important for a number of reasons, not least because it will help to drive interest in the technology, and help accelerate development.

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