Battery powered electric car proponents say that hydrogen fuel cell destroyed the electric car. Hydrogen fuel cells were introduced as a mainstream alternative to oil by George Bush, but that hydrogen had to be made from organic matter (petrol and derivates).
Current hydrogen fuel cells work at temperatures for up to 100°C for PEM types, and up to 300°C for SAFC (solid acid). The problem with these, although I don’t agree with their developmental direction, is that they don’t tolerate carbon very easily, and pure hydrogen is very hard to obtain from carbon-rich sources, such as methane or petrol.
The researchers from the University of Aberdeen are about find out a method of overcoming the carbon issue and have invent a low temperature fuel cell. They received a £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.
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.”
Their work is to be looked at closely by the media, because indeed it is something remarkable. What I don’t understand is why don’t we use solar power and water to generate hydrogen? I know the energy consumed is higher than the energy gained, but we also don’t have any other good and clean alternatives, and it’s said batteries can’t store the energy required to drive a car for a reasonable number of miles… We either invent new, clean batteries, or make fuel cells better. I guess both solutions are going to evolve somehow, and time will tell the better (unless other economical aspects get involved, and only the cost effective will dominate).