The present invention provides compact adsorption systems that are capable of rapid temperature swings and rapid cycling. Novel methods of thermal swing adsorption and thermally-enhanced pressure swing adsorption are also described. In some aspects of the invention, a gas is passed through the adsorbent thus allowing heat exchangers to be very close to all portions of the adsorbent and utilize less space. In another aspect, the adsorption media is selectively heated, thus reducing energy costs. Methods and systems for gas adsorption/desorption having improved energy efficiency with capability of short cycle times are also described. In another aspect, the apparatus or methods utilize heat exchange channels of varying lengths that have volumes controlled to provide equal heat fluxes. Methods of fuel cell startup are also described. Advantages of the invention include the ability to use (typically) 30-100 times less adsorbent compared to conventional systems.