A new fuel cell that uses not only pure hydrogen to generate electricity has been discovered by Eric Wachsman, an engineering professor at the University of Maryland. It could be used in applications ranging from laptops to powering entire buildings, emitting only a fraction of the pollution today’s fuel-burning engines do.
We’ve been used to hearing fuel cells can only consume hydrogen and that they’re so expensive not anyone can afford them – they contain platinum. Wachsman and his team developed their fuel cell so that it could be fueled with hydrogen, natural gas and, yes, gasoline, to produce electricity.
“They’ve all thought of it as based on hydrogen, and because of that they kept thinking of fuel cells as future technology because right now there’s nowhere to get hydrogen,” Wachsman said. “You can’t go out and fill your car with hydrogen today.”
The professor says that a car powered by the fuel cell they invented could travel up to three times more per fill than a regular gasoline engine car, and that their technology is much more advanced than what the competition currently has. “It operates at 10 times the power and two-thirds the temperature,” Wachsman said.
The fuel cell he invented operates at 650 degrees Celsius, but with further research it can be made to work at 350 degrees. Furthermore, it is so thin that, if used in a vehicle, it would occupy a small space, being only 10 centimeters wide.
Promises of high-power, cheap fuel cells have been occurring every now and then, but so far we haven’t seen anything mass-produced besides the old platinum jewel. I guess the stake is high, and a breakthrough device would only hit the market when it’s time for it to do so. Until then, my sincere opinion is that the best of them are going to stay locked in some big corporate basement and we’ll never hear from them until the time is right.
Hydrogen fuel cells and for that matter hydrogen in general has the same problems that existed in 2000. The cost either by production or by production. What I’m saying is if you cant produce the fuel in a method that can compare cost wise with other fuel sources nobody is going down that road. Now there have been advancements in storage and conversion (notice I didn’t say production) because we don’t produce hydrogen we more refine it from some other compound. Hydrogen is the perfect fuel for our world because it’s abundant and clean problem is we’re not ready yet. We are getting there but it’s been really slow. The bigest problem with hydrogen is anyone can make it…so inorder to control the fuel source the technology must be the deciding factor. Lets face it hydrogen is everywhere and there are a lot of methods to refine the product most of these are cost prohibitive making hydrogen a costly energy carrier. But soon someone will point out that hydrogen can be produced cheaper than all other energy carriers. Here’s where the rub meets the road, it takes energy to produce hydrogen so once you have this energy why produce hydrogen? The answer is in the pursuit it is a means to an end, what you will discover along the way is far more valuable than the end product that you intended to find.