Rolls-Royce launches Power Lab innovation unit, adds fuel cells to technologies

Dr Peter Riegger (right) heads Rolls-Royce Power System's new Power Lab innovation unit, with Dr Daniel Chatterjee and Dr Arne Schneemann. (credit: Rolls-Royce Power Systems)Dr Peter Riegger (right) heads Rolls-Royce Power System’s new Power Lab innovation unit, with Dr Daniel Chatterjee and Dr Arne Schneemann. (credit: Rolls-Royce Power Systems)

Rolls-Royce Power Systems is establishing a standalone unit, Power Lab, focused on developing net zero carbon drive and energy solutions for the marine and infrastructure sectors. The unit extends the company’s existing focus on the production and deployment of synthetic fuels (Power-to-X), to fuel cell systems.

Partnerships and technological openness key to winning new markets

The new Power Lab unit, which will function as an innovation unit for new technologies, is headed by Dr Peter Riegger, who previously led the Research & Technology division.

“Our research engineers now have more technological freedom to develop new ideas and refine them in cooperation with customers and partners.” In this respect, long-term partnerships nurturing the development of technologies and capabilities will play a crucial role in enabling new markets to be captured.

Agenda includes production and use of renewables-based fuels

One of the new technologies on the Power Lab’s agenda involves producing and deploying fuels based on renewable energies (Power-to-X). “Synthetic fuels can support the net zero carbon operation of both today’s existing drive and energy systems and those of the future, in addition to enabling the storage of renewables-based energies. We believe in this technology and are keen to endorse its development in collaborations and research projects,” explained Dr Arne Schneemann, responsible for pre-development in the Power Lab team.

Dr Daniel Chatterjee oversees Technology Management and Regulatory Affairs in the Power Lab and also drives the company’s Green and High-Tech Program. “We’re placing the emphasis on improved efficiencies, alternative fuels, electrification, digitalization and integrated system solutions with the aim of continually enhancing the eco-friendliness of our drive and energy systems and bringing them closer to their CO2 neutrality”, he said.

Fuel cell technology for marine propulsion and power generation

The Power Lab has also set its sights on the use of fuel cells in power generation and marine propulsion. “In terms of overall efficiency, the fuel cell is the undisputed front-runner and on top of that generates ultra-low to zero emissions,” said Dr Philippe Gorse, whose team is responsible for conceptual work on the fuel cell in the Power Lab. “That makes it a highly attractive option for contributing to the decarbonisation of drive systems and power generation.”

Through its Power Systems business, Rolls-Royce is also cooperating with Daimler Truck AG on developing carbon neutral fuel cell systems for supplying emergency power to mission-critical applications such as data centres and for covering peak loads.

Since the end of last year, the partnership has been looking at taking fuel cell modules used in automobile production to create a demonstrator that will contribute to the power requirement of Rolls-Royce facilities in Friedrichshafen.

The Motorship notes that Daimler AG announced that the fuel cell demonstrator was expected to begin operations at Friedrichshafen by the end of 2020.

This will support a further partnership’s aim of using fuel cell modules in development for driving commercial vehicles for other applications such as stationary power plants.

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