Born inside the Technical University of Munich, the engineers behind Reverion say they’ve had their heads down for seven years developing a way to get more electricity out of biogas and existing fuel-cell technology.
Biogas comes from decomposing waste and is mostly made up of methane. It’s a form of chemical energy that must be converted into electricity before it can flow into homes. You could do this by burning it, but that would release pollutants and waste around half the energy; a comparably cleaner and more efficient option is to use fuel cells, which generate electricity via an electrochemical reaction — sort of like a battery. Either way, some energy is lost in the conversion process, but Reverion aims to push biogas fuel-cell efficiency toward its limit.
“Normally, the industry fights for say, a 0.2% increase in efficiency per year. That’s even an achievement,” Reverion chief executive Stephan Herrmann told TechCrunch. “We get an increase from the best power plant that’s available, of 60%, to 80% just in one step.” According to Herrmann, Reverion achieves this 20% efficiency boost by capturing and processing gas that would otherwise go unused inside the fuel cell. The CEO of the Eresing, Germany-based company presented today in San Francisco at TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield.
“Fuel cells themselves always have had this like 80% efficiency in them, but they have some limits,” said Herrmann. “What typically happens is that up to 30% of the fuel you feed to the fuel cell comes out unused again.” The CEO added, “We eliminate that by basically re-increasing the quality of the gas in two steps and then recycling it into the fuel cell.”
With $7 million in tow, the startup says it is now gearing up to pilot 10 modular power plant units, each housed in 20-foot shipping containers with enough capacity to power 100 households apiece. Reverion aims to deliver its first unit “roughly” by the end of the first quarter of 2023 — and all 10 before the end of the year.
The company secured its seed funding from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection, the European Social Fund and XPrize.