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Biofuels fuel cell

Published on August 8th, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz

25

Nanotech Research Could Remove Need For Hydrogen In Fuel Cells

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August 8th, 2008 by  

fuel cell

Fuel cells have long been hailed as a promising technology, but they face a major hurdle: the need for hydrogen, which is usually derived from oil and gas. Now a research team from the University of Virginia is trying to change that.

The team will divide its research into two parts. One part of the project will try to create a “solar cell” to gather energy from the sun, and the other part will attempt to use nano-scale structures to create a fuel cell that can transform renewable biofuels into electricity. Working at a nano level will make ion reactions quicker and more efficient than they would be otherwise, and it will be easier to control any problems that come up.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a fuel cell that could provide enough power for an entire town or city block.

Similar research into alternative methods of powering fuel cells is also being performed by other groups, including Innovatek and a team at Aberdeen University. But don’t hold your breath waiting for a fuel cell to power your house; we probably won’t see tangible results from these studies for many years.

Photo Credit: Fuel Cells Work

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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



  • genie

    Excellent article Ariel, as usual. You were able to translate complicated material into everyday language.

    Keep it up.

    Genie

  • genie

    Excellent article Ariel, as usual. You were able to translate complicated material into everyday language.

    Keep it up.

    Genie

  • genie

    Excellent article Ariel, as usual. You were able to translate complicated material into everyday language.

    Keep it up.

    Genie

  • Mr. Sexy

    Ariel,

    It’s not that they’re bypassing hydrogen from the equation, it’s that they’re using the hydrogen, from a hydrogen rich fuel(in this case a biofuel), for this application.

    Many solid oxide fuel cell developers are working on hydrogen rich fuels, like biofuels as a feedstock.

    Also to insinuate that fuel cells can’t power homes or micro-grids now, is false. Maybe THESE fuel cells won’t, but do some research on the fuel cell demonstration project the Japanese government is funding.

    Fuel cells for large stationary applications have been pretty successful. Check out the Sierra Nevada brewery for one example.

  • Mr. Sexy

    Ariel,

    It’s not that they’re bypassing hydrogen from the equation, it’s that they’re using the hydrogen, from a hydrogen rich fuel(in this case a biofuel), for this application.

    Many solid oxide fuel cell developers are working on hydrogen rich fuels, like biofuels as a feedstock.

    Also to insinuate that fuel cells can’t power homes or micro-grids now, is false. Maybe THESE fuel cells won’t, but do some research on the fuel cell demonstration project the Japanese government is funding.

    Fuel cells for large stationary applications have been pretty successful. Check out the Sierra Nevada brewery for one example.

  • http://www.krazd.com Krazd

    These alternative fuel technologies should have been researched and implemented a long time ago!

  • http://www.krazd.com Krazd

    These alternative fuel technologies should have been researched and implemented a long time ago!

  • http://www.krazd.com Krazd

    These alternative fuel technologies should have been researched and implemented a long time ago!

  • Doc

    Water is *not* a fuel in the real technical use of the word… it is a stable chemical from which electricity can extract gaseous hydrogen. Hydrogen is a “medium of energy” that is storable and transportable, but with less potential energy than what was used to create it.

    The original “fuel” is whatever originally generated the electricity: nuclear, coal, solar (fusion of the sun), natural gas, ethanol, etc.

    The closer you can use the power to the “real” fuel in the generation process, the less waste and cost you will have.

    Hence solar directly to hydrogen to storage in a battery is good efficiency, but solar to batteries to hydrogen is less efficient.

  • Doc

    Water is *not* a fuel in the real technical use of the word… it is a stable chemical from which electricity can extract gaseous hydrogen. Hydrogen is a “medium of energy” that is storable and transportable, but with less potential energy than what was used to create it.

    The original “fuel” is whatever originally generated the electricity: nuclear, coal, solar (fusion of the sun), natural gas, ethanol, etc.

    The closer you can use the power to the “real” fuel in the generation process, the less waste and cost you will have.

    Hence solar directly to hydrogen to storage in a battery is good efficiency, but solar to batteries to hydrogen is less efficient.

  • http://cofibeans.blogspot.com/2008/08/anne-curtis-is-hot-in-dyosa.html Anne Curtis Dyosa

    i hope these technologies will continue for the sake of us

  • http://cofibeans.blogspot.com/2008/08/anne-curtis-is-hot-in-dyosa.html Anne Curtis Dyosa

    i hope these technologies will continue for the sake of us

  • http://cofibeans.blogspot.com/2008/08/anne-curtis-is-hot-in-dyosa.html Anne Curtis Dyosa

    i hope these technologies will continue for the sake of us

  • Jim McDosh

    Anything to eliminate Hydrogen would be a big plus in my book.

    JT

    http://www.FireMe.To/udi

  • Jim McDosh

    Anything to eliminate Hydrogen would be a big plus in my book.

    JT

    http://www.FireMe.To/udi

  • rick astley

    where does it say that THIS team will be extracting hydrogen from biofuels? this project generates hydrogen from solar.

  • rick astley

    where does it say that THIS team will be extracting hydrogen from biofuels? this project generates hydrogen from solar.

  • Kevan

    Who said that water fuel cells depend on gasoline? All you need is a car battery and an efficient water fuel cell. The water is the fuel. The Car battery powers the electrolysis. The by-product is steam, leaving you with more water. These Things are cheap and people all around the world are driving like this! Google Daniel Dingel, He drives with sea water.

  • Kevan

    Who said that water fuel cells depend on gasoline? All you need is a car battery and an efficient water fuel cell. The water is the fuel. The Car battery powers the electrolysis. The by-product is steam, leaving you with more water. These Things are cheap and people all around the world are driving like this! Google Daniel Dingel, He drives with sea water.

  • Kevan

    Who said that water fuel cells depend on gasoline? All you need is a car battery and an efficient water fuel cell. The water is the fuel. The Car battery powers the electrolysis. The by-product is steam, leaving you with more water. These Things are cheap and people all around the world are driving like this! Google Daniel Dingel, He drives with sea water.

  • Chard

    @Dave

    Try reading the article next time.

    they’re aiming to use these fuel cells as an alternative to hydrogen.

    Currently to reform hydrogen, it requires more energy to process it than it outputs.

  • Chard

    @Dave

    Try reading the article next time.

    they’re aiming to use these fuel cells as an alternative to hydrogen.

    Currently to reform hydrogen, it requires more energy to process it than it outputs.

  • Pingback: Eco-Cide: Exploring Ecology

  • Dave

    What? Hydrogen from Biofuels? Why in the world would anyone want to do that? Why not Water? It’s more abundant, requires no processing and is the by product of fuel cell operation. Water is easily reformed via solar power so what’s the mystery here?

    What sort of foolishness are these academics wasting our money on now?

  • Dave

    What? Hydrogen from Biofuels? Why in the world would anyone want to do that? Why not Water? It’s more abundant, requires no processing and is the by product of fuel cell operation. Water is easily reformed via solar power so what’s the mystery here?

    What sort of foolishness are these academics wasting our money on now?

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