Microsoft’s Zero Carbon Quest May Lean Heavy On Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Microsoft periodically updates the public on its zero-carbon quest as it nears its zero-negative 2030 timeline, and today’s update includes some expansions into the world of hydrogen fuel cells.

As more businesses, governments, and municipalities move their operations to the cloud, data centers are becoming the heart of global business, and companies like Microsoft are looking for other ways to power them while being environmentally conscious.

Beyond wind turbines and solar power, Microsoft started betting on proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology in 2013 and it looks like it’s about to pay off as an energy resource. without carbon emissions.

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Research by Microsoft environmental director Lucas Joppa has found that PEM cells that combine hydrogen and oxygen for a chemical reaction that produces electricity, heat and water without particulates and carbon-free, could be the future of enterprise data center production in the future.

Joppa tested PEM technology at three megawatts, which is equivalent to the diesel generators Microsoft currently uses in its backup processes and enough energy to power 10,000 computers or 600 homes.

Unfortunately, PEM technology is currently not suitable for scale and could become a long-term project as the world strives to make green hydrogen economically viable.

However, the potential benefit of green hydrogen for powering commercial buildings, homes, hospitals, and data centers during growing environmental emergencies could help accelerate its use.

At present, PEM fuel technology is only being explored as a backup option for Microsoft’s data centers, but researchers are investigating ways to extend life and make it become a viable alternative solution for commercial use.

As Sean James, director of data center research at Microsoft, explains: “I’m going to turn around when the excitement wears off and start asking, ‘Okay, we did one, where? can I get 1000? We are committed to being completely diesel-free, and that supply chain needs to be robust – we need to talk about scale across the whole hydrogen industry.

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