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Microsoft Sees Huge Potential in Fuel Cells

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Racks in a data center

Will these Microsoft racks soon include fuel cells? The company has outlined a plan to integrate methane-based fuel cells directly into racks.

Credit: Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft recently released a study that investigated fuel cells as a centralized power source and as distributed power generation technology. The study touted the use of fuel cells to power data centers.

"By integrating fuel cells with IT hardware, we can cut much of the power electronics out of the conventional fuel cell system," says Microsoft researcher Sean James. However, he notes that technical issues, such as the fuel distribution system, power management, and safety training remain to be resolved.

The study examined running an entire data center on fuel cell technology and decoupling data centers from the electric grid. The study found that fuel cells are much less expensive than high-voltage switchgear, transformers, and copper cables, and have no moving parts, unlike generators. In addition, if the fuels are distributed in a data center and placed at the servers and racks, "we can completely eliminate the power distribution system in the data center, including the power backup generation," the report notes.

James says fuel cells can double the efficiency of traditional data centers, and are environmentally friendly.

From Computerworld
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