Lars Frahm hit on the idea for his company N2telligence during a lunch break in 2004. At the time, Frahm was employed by Airbus in Hamburg-Finkenwerder and quickly realized that exhaust air from a fuel cell was exactly the right component for a kerosene tank to prevent fire. This idea eventually led to his business model for N2telligence, based in Wismar and Hamburg, where the teams are developing a fuel cell system that provides electricity and heat as well as preventive fire protection.
Clients in Paris und Johannesburg
The patents for Airbus were written in 2005. A year later, Frahm founded N2telligence GmbH with his fellow student Andreas Exler in 2006 and secured the patent rights from Airbus for unrelated sectors. Mercedes Benz, Dr. Oetker, the Air Liquide research centre in Paris and the Minerals Council South Africa in Johannesburg are among the firm’s present customers. The six employees at N2telligence, which is now a subsidiary of the Japanese Fuji Electric Group, develop the concepts from the branches in Hamburg and Wismar and are in close contact with the Airbus patent department.
Meanwhile, 16 systems are operated mainly in logistic companies. Fire protection is a top priority in large warehouses as products worth six and seven digit sums are often stored there. If they are ravaged by fire, the damage can put a company entirely out of business. N2telligence recently installed its system in the German food company Coppenrath & Wiese’s deep-freeze warehouse. The huge fire protection problems faced by such warehouses are barely imaginable, said Frahm. “A frozen chicken, for instance, is so dry that it burns like tinder.”
Lower oxygen content in the air
To prevent fire, the exhaust air from the fuel cell is fed into a room with an oxygen content of about 16 per cent by volume. Although this is only slightly lower than the normal surrounding air, this percentage makes the difference. “Nothing can catch fire in that air,” said Frahm. N2telligence developed the system in co-operation with Minimax, a fire protection company based in Bad Oldesloe. Last year, their joint fuel cell-based OXEO ECOPREVENT FC system was named “Product of the Year” at Europe’s largest fire protection trade fair.
Opportunities in other industries
The concept might yet be applicable for training top athletes and in medicine. Other countries already have therapeutic facilities of this kind. Frahm noted: “Breathing in an oxygen-reduced atmosphere has many positive effects.”
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