Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Breakthrough in Affordable Hydrogen Cars

According to researchers from the University of Connecticut a new process for producing fuel cells could help bring the cost of hydrogen cars down significantly within 10 years.

The process developed by these researchers involves spraying atom-sized particles of a catalyst onto a membrane, to produce hydrogen fuel cells. They say that the same technique could also be used to make lithium-ion batteries, the kind used in most electric and hybrid cars.

Hydrogen fuel cars have low emissions, no moving parts and because they generate power on board in fuel cells, they don’t need the long charging time of electric vehicles. However, they are prohibitively expensive. To make them commercially viable researchers at the University of Connecticut are developing an inexpensive way of bringing hydrogen power to the masses.

The expense is due to the elements used (platinum and iridium), which are both rare and expensive.Materials that can withstand the highly acidic solvents necessary to turn hydrogen into electricity are expensive.

The new technique involves firing the catalyst on to the membrane in the form of a gas flame. The flame-based dispersion means the metal bonds quicker, eliminating the need for repeated binding and drying steps.

Professor Radenka Maric, who developed the process at the University of Connecticut’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering, said it used 10 times less catalyst material and produced significantly less waste.

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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