May 02, 2013 - NREL researcher Guido Bender works on gas manifold corridor for cell testing at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

NREL researcher Guido Bender works on gas manifold corridor for cell testing at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

Right for fuel cells

Fuel Cell flow and pressure control elements vary widely, which is why it’s so good to have lab-quality instruments built to perfectly fit an industrial process, yet flexible enough to adapt to your changing needs.

Assure accuracy at both low or high flows. Confirm your flow rates with calibration measurements. Totalize inputs and outputs. Rely on NIST-traceable calibration, unmatched versatility and blindingly-fast response times.

A hydrogen fuel cell researcher:

“Regarding the quality – so far I have had a good experience with the Alicat MFCs, which have already served several years.
We now have three different applications: a gas flow reactor, a testing station for gas sensors and a hydrogen PEM fuel cell test station.”


For Hydrogen Fuel Cell Makers

Take a look at the large backlit display and see all your operating parameters in one place. Push a few buttons, and what was a propane instrument is now calibrated for hydrogen, without the chore of re-calculating K-factors or adjusting full scale rates. Plug in your ethernet cable and your MFC joins the Ethernet/IP network. Such ease of use, such versatility.

These things matter to our fuel cell customers, but they are “nice to have” compared to the peace of mind you get from precise control, at microsecond rates.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) Pre-heat Perfection

Precision control of the pre-heating cycle of SOFC stacks becomes achievable when your instrument is capable of 64,000 increments of resolution. Our sensor samples the mass flow 1000 times per second! Combine a rapid sensor response with only 50 milliseconds to reach a new setpoint, you have control over even the most demanding flow systems.

Reliable for Calibration and PEMs

NIST traceable calibrations ensure your accuracy. Use our portable low pressure drop meters to calibrate your test stands, and verify flow. A lifetime warranty—the only one in the industry—is backed by 25 years of manufacturing flow instruments, plus lifetime free technical support, and ISO 9001 quality assurance.

  • Hydrogen_fuel_cell_bus_4x5

    An alternative energy manufacturer:

    “I purchased your devices for our methanol/water fluid mixture to hydrogen gas converter; we use the liquid meter for the methanol/water fuel inlet and the mass flow meter for the hydrogen outlet. The product is easy to configure and performs as described; overall a good product. I would buy again.”


Test stand manufacturing

Testing PEMs and SOFC performance means tight controls of your fuel gases. Whether flowing reforming gases or hydrogen and oxygen fuel directly, Alicat controllers excel.

  • Calibrating and controlling flows of hydrogen, oxygen, air, propane, methane, nitrogen—or a custom gas mix— are intrinsic requirements of test stands. With Gas Select, you change gas calibrations easily while maintaining accuracy.
  • Super-fast control response times minimize waste and ensure a stable flow.
  • A pressure control loop setting means you can control system pressure while measuring mass flow, reducing complexity.
  • Totalizers help you calculate total mass into or out of the system, efficiently.
  • PLC and industrial integration with any of several industrial protocols (EtherNet/IP, DeviceNet or others) means test stands can be scaled to work as stand-alone capital equipment or integrated into a lab’s control and reporting scheme.

Handling water and alcohols

For alcohol fuels or for controlling water flow out of the reactor, Alicat has the fastest liquid controllers available. Properly configured, speed of control means steadiness, with lower settling times and virtually no oscillation around the setpoint. We custom-range valve and response settings to fit your application. Each Alicat is built to precisely fit your process specifications, for highest accuracy and tightest control—but is easily re-programmed for new functions.

  • Control water and liquid flows—whether sub-1000 ccm range, or much higher
  • Perfect for distilled water, methanol or ethanol
  • Maintaining input pressure, or inducing outlet backpressure using a pressure control loop (while measuring flow)

Reforming hydrocarbons

Complex gases are no problem. Alicat instruments’ gas versatility makes them the best for working with different hydrocarbons and elemental gases. Mixing gases to precise blends requires the accuracy you get from Alicat controllers. Extend your capabilities with fewer instruments: over 98 onboard gas and gas-blend calibrations installed, and high accuracy at low turndowns mean you can keep your inventories low.

Use blending software Flow Vision MX from Alicat to program custom blends on the fly. Control multiple devices through Flow Vision SC—or configure your devices with one of the available industrial protocols.

  • Suppressing gas pressure spikes through fast control tuning
  • Use pressure controllers to maintain pressure at a point down or upstream of the controller with a remote sensor

Reducing Balance of Plant costs

Alicat has controllers suitable for high volume stationary power, vehicle power generation and portable fuel cells. With precise flow control up to 5000 slpm (176 scfm) at the high end, down to microliters per minute, flow ranges are not an issue. But for cost, weight and size reduction, small BASIS mass flow controllers and EPC pressure regulators are well suited to installation in appliances.

  • Some can reduce cabling by using the display interface for programming
  • Changing gases without K-factor inaccuracies improves gas usage efficiencies
  • Ability to turn flows way down (200:1 typical) means fewer instruments are needed—reducing cost, complexity and mass of components

Questions about Fuel Cell flow and pressure?

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PEM Fuel Cell Testing App Note

Proton Electron Membrane (PEM) Fuel Cell Testing

Illustration of a method to increase reliability, repeatability and speed of leak tests on Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC)
membranes, using a dual valve pressure controller and a micro-flow mass flow meter.

App Note


Alicat Controllers in SOFC Applications

Alicat controllers can be used for controlling fuel gas flows into the reformer of hydrocarbon fueled systems, or hydrogen and air or oxygen into the stack of hydrogen fueled systems. This Application note examines an efficient and reliable way to use a mass flow controller to control the fuel cell preheater in the startup phase.
App Note

MC Standard Series Mass Flow Controller

Alicat MC-series mass flow controller
Control responsively and stably with the fastest mass flow controller in the world. Maintain speed and accuracy at flows as low as 0.0025-0.5 standard cubic centimeters per minute or as high as 5000 slpm. Our high turndown ratios mean the flow is accurate over a longer range, reducing the number of units required. Full onboard calibrations for multiple gases mean more flexibility and fewer spares. Fast control means better mechanistic control of reactions and reduced waste. Low pressure drop options work well with low pressure differentials. Pressure control loop settings mean you can control pressure in the system while measuring mass flow.

Fuel Cell customers choose Alicat MFCs for:

  • Control flow of hydrogen, nitrogen, methane, propane, air and O2. Custom mixes of gases, too!
  • Leak checking faster, with fewer devices
  • All the industry’s flow rates: Microflows of less than 0.5 sccm to high flows of 5000 SLPM
  • Dispensing, using optional totalizers

MC Specs
Go to the MFC page

LC Standard Flow Series

Alicat LC-series liquid flow controller
Control liquid flows down to 0.1 ccm with the fastest control response time available in a liquid flow controller (100 ms). Custom orifice sizing enables us to tailor-select a valve to satisfy your application and performance requirements.

Fuel Cell researchers and manufacturers use Alicat Liquid controllers for:

  • Controlling water and liquid flows—whether sub-1000 ccm range, or much higher
  • Perfect for distilled water or alcohols
  • Maintaining input pressure, or inducing outlet backpressure using a pressure control loop (while measuring flow)

LC Specs
Liquid Controller Page

PCD Standard Closed Volume Series

Alicat PCD-series dual-valve pressure controller for closed volumes
Control responsively and stably in closed volumes without wasting costly gases through a continuous bleed valve. The PCD Series incorporates a second, independently-controlled exhaust valve that actuates only when the pressure needs to be reduced, keeping gas venting to an absolute minimum. Available for gauge and absolute pressures up to 2000 psi, or differential pressures up to 150 psid.

Fuel cell manufacturers and research labs use Alicat Pressure Controllers for:

  • Suppressing gas pressure spikes through fast control tuning
  • Maintaining differential water pressure using gas pressure and a remote sensor
  • Rapid leak checking of closed volumes by using dual-valve pressure controllers

PCD Specs
Dual Valve Pressure Controller Page

PC Standard Flowing Volume Series

Alicat PC-EXTSEN-series pressure controller with external sensor connector
Control responsively and stably with the fastest pressure controller in the world. Available for gauge and absolute pressures up to 2000 psi, or differential pressures up to 150 psid.
PC Specs Pressure Controller page

MB and PCU Portable Calibration Series

Portable mass flow calibrator with optional backlit color display from Alicat
Integrated rechargeable lithium-ion batteries make for laboratory-grade flow verification that you can take with you anywhere. May be customized as “Whisper” (MWB) or anti-corrosive (MBS) portable mass flow calibrators. Alicat’s Portable Calibration Unit (PCU) houses three mass flow meters in a single battery-powered case for the widest possible calibration range. Click here for more information about our portable meters and calibrators.

Fuel Cell researchers and equipment manufacturers use portable meters for:

  • Calibrating and verifying flow rates with reliable, data-rich logging and high accuracy
  • Flexibly metering N2, Air, or H2—reliably changing gases without recalibration or K-factors!
  • Fewer meters per bench: high turndown ratios means fewer device changes
  • Calibration goes fast with 1000 samples per second averaging
  • Custody transfer of gases, using data logging

MB Specs PCU Specs Go to Portables page. Go to Meters page.