Humboldt State University

Schatz Energy Research Center

Stack-in-a-Box® Portable Power Supply System

A small fuel cell power system inside a portable case with the lid open.

The SERC Stack-in-a-Box® Portable Power Supply is a completely portable fuel cell generator custom designed and manufactured by SERC. It is designed to educate people of all ages and backgrounds about renewable energy, hydrogen, and fuel cells. School-age students, as well as industry specialists, have quickly become comfortable operating the system, which has proven to be an effective educational tool. The system provides students with hands-on experience with fuel cell technology, making the learning process fun and interactive.

In the system hydrogen, stored in a standard lecture bottle (a small pressurized gas storage cylinder), is fed to a proton exchange membrane fuel cell to produce DC electricity.

Our patented low air pressure design ensures high fuel cell system efficiency. The 16-cell PEM fuel cell power system has a peak power of 125 W. A small inverter converts the fuel cell’s 12VDC electricity to 110VAC electricity for use with standard appliances — favorites for demonstrations include a blender for making smoothies and incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs. The Stack-in-a-Box® was designed with simplicity in mind. The system is easy to use, and students of all ages have used it over and over with a perfect safety and operating record.

SERC Stack-in-a-Box®.

To date, SERC has built five Stack-in-a-Box® units, four for outside clients and one for our own use. Our Stack-in-a-Box® plays an important role in our educational outreach efforts. At career and renewable energy fairs, people of all ages crowd around to see the system and learn about fuel cells. The Stack-in-a-Box® can also power a laptop computer, making it an integral part of our multimedia presentations. During the summer of 2003, a SERC engineer demonstrated the Stack-in-a-Box® to hundreds of thousands of people through the Lollapalooza music tour, giving concertgoers across the country their first chance to see a hydrogen fuel cell up close.

Merit Academy students and SERC staff run the first Stack-in-a-Box®.

A SERC staff member demonstrates the Stack-in-a-Box® to Lollapalooza concertgoers.

Stack-in-a-Box® Portable Power Supply System Specifications

Size (inside) 18" x 14.5" x 12"
Fuel Cell
Peak Power 125 watts
Continuous Power 75 watts
Hydrogen Lecture Bottle
Gas Purity 99.95%
Volume 54 standard liters
Connection Fitting CGA 170
Maximum Pressure 1800 psig @ 70°F
Continuous Power 200 watts
Peak Power Output 300 watts
Surge Capacity 400 watts
Output Voltage 120 volts AC, 60 Hertz
Input Voltage 10-15 volts DC
Input Current 20 amperes (maximum)
Gas Pressure Regulator
Type Dual Stage
Delivery Pressure Range 0-30 psig
Type Single-stage brushless DC Blower
Input Voltage 12± 0.5 volts DC
Pressure Relief Device
Cracking Pressure 8 psig