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.