Low temperature fuel cells: New clean, energy efficient technology to power cars and mobiles

Jan 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new version of an environmentally friendly, energy efficient technology that could replace combustion engines in cars and batteries in mobile devices such as phones and laptops is being researched by Aberdeen experts.

Academics from the University of Aberdeen are investigating the possibility of a new type of low temperature fuel cell.

Fuel cells convert fuels into electricity directly without the need for combustion.

Low temperature fuel cells could be used to provide power for vehicles, portable devices and small stationary power in a way that is less damaging to the environment than current powering methods.

Conventional low temperature fuel cells are on the verge of entering the market.

However making fuel cells as common and widely available as the conventional battery or engine is proving difficult because there are several significant challenges that still need to be overcome - including the high cost of the components and the low tolerance of the fuel cell to carbon.

Hydrogen is used as the main fuel in low temperature fuel cell technology, but as it is mainly produced from fossil fuels, it contains carbon-containing impurities.

In current models of low temperature fuel cells, the carbon forms carbon monoxide that will clog up the surface of the electrode part of the fuel cell making it less efficient in producing energy.

Researchers from the University's Chemistry department have been awarded £288,000 of funding from Scottish Enterprise's Proof of Concept Programme for a two year project to develop their idea of how the electrode can be modified to make it more efficient in dealing with carbon monoxide.

The innovative electrode design will enable the fuel cell to use either carbon-contaminated hydrogen or hydrocarbon fuels such as methanol, biofuels or natural gas without the need for upstream reforming - a costly and cumbersome process whereby hydrogen fuels are "cleaned" prior to use. This makes it a more cost effective option than the low temperature fuel cell systems that are currently on the market.

It is hoped if successful that the creation of a lower cost option will result in the fuel cell being introduced to the marketplace more quickly and more widely than expected.

Dr Angela Kruth, from the University of Aberdeen's Chemistry Department is leading the project. She said: "The aim is to create a new type of low temperature fuel cell, which is able to deal with carbon monoxide better than those currently on the market - and as a result is cheaper and more efficient in producing electricity.

"Our research will focus on the electrode part of the fuel cell and develop ways in which it can better cope with the carbon monoxide found in the fuel which it is converting into power.

"Although the long-term goal is zero emission production of ultra-pure hydrogen from renewable sources such as wind, solar or tidal power, currently carbon-containing fuels are still the dominating energy source.

"The new low temperature fuel cell will be able to use carbon-containing fuels directly and is expected to drastically accelerate fuel cell technology breakthrough into the current market."

Provided by University of Aberdeen

Explore further: Drive system saves space and weight in electric cars

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mongolian women 'want status over big families'

23 minutes ago

A new study suggests the aspirations of women in Mongolia have rapidly shifted. Before the rapid economic transition of the 1990s, the wealthiest women in the Communist-style era had big families. However, ...

New iPads, Mac system expected at Apple event

24 minutes ago

(AP)—Apple Inc. is expected to unveil new iPads at an event Thursday, as the company tries to drive excitement amid slowing demand for tablet computers. Apple may also announce a new Mac operating system ...

Butterflies rely on connections amid changing climate

33 minutes ago

Butterflies in Canadian mountain meadows rebounded after a severe population crash. Why? It's all about connections, found a study by the University of California, Davis, in collaboration with Western University ...

UnitedHealth tops 3Q expectations, raises forecast

39 minutes ago

UnitedHealth Group's third-quarter earnings inched up 2 percent but that was enough to help the nation's largest health insurer trump Wall Street expectations and raise its 2014 forecast for the first time ...

Recommended for you

First-of-a-kind supercritical CO2 turbine

18 minutes ago

Toshiba Corporation today announced that it will supply a first-of-a-kind supercritical CO2 turbine to a demonstration plant being built in Texas, USA. The plant will be developed by NET Power, LLC, a U.S. venture, together w ...

Drive system saves space and weight in electric cars

Oct 17, 2014

Siemens has developed a solution for integrating an electric car's motor and inverter in a single housing. Until now, the motor and the inverter, which converts the battery's direct current into alternating ...

Dispelling a misconception about Mg-ion batteries

Oct 16, 2014

Lithium (Li)-ion batteries serve us well, powering our laptops, tablets, cell phones and a host of other gadgets and devices. However, for future automotive applications, we will need rechargeable batteries ...

Turning humble seaweed into biofuel

Oct 16, 2014

The sea has long been a source of Norway's riches, whether from cod, farmed salmon or oil. Now one researcher from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) researcher hopes to add seaweed ...

Air Umbrella R&D evolves as shield from pelting rain

Oct 15, 2014

A Chinese R&D team have invented an Air Umbrella which can blast water away from the umbrella's owner. They explain how their invention deflects rain: "Air is everywhere on the earth. The flowing air can ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

NeilFarbstein
3 / 5 (2) Jan 13, 2009
Vulvox has begun experiments on lithium ion batteries with unprecedented energy storage capacity; 42 kwh/kg. They also take advantage of inexpensive processes of manufacturing silicon nanowires. Our breakthrough batteries will store as much energy per unit weight as fuel cells and will be used in the growing fleet of plug in hybrid vehicles. Our R&D program has been underway for several years. Vulvox is developing a comparable battery that will cost much less to manufacture, and we've been in the race to develop a super lithium ion battery for some time now. Our research was based on the same theoretical foundations as the research at Stanford. Our patent pending carbon nanotube adhesive material has shown properties such as ultra high porosity; necessary to manufacture ultracapacitors and it might be useful as electrode material for lithium ion batteries also.
HTTP://VULVOX.TRIPOD.COM
E_L_Earnhardt
3 / 5 (2) Jan 13, 2009
Good Work!