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Decreasing the Cost of Fuel Cells

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 12:46PM
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Fuel cells are hardly a new technology but with oil prices increasing and a growing interest in environmentally cleaner power sources, there is renewed interest. A fuel cell works by passing an atom or molecule through a barrier without all of its electrons. These abandoned electrons want to be reunited with their partners, so they will travel through the path man built for them through our electronics. To aid this process a catalyst is used, and researchers at Aalto University have discovered a new way to manufacturer fuel cells with a particular catalyst.

Possibly the kind of fuel cell best known by the public is the hydrogen fuel cell. This design uses hydrogen as fuel and produces water vapor as waste. Though possibly the cleanest possible fuel cell, the hydrogen fuel cell is hardly the cheapest or safest. Hydrogen readily combusts and already has a tarnished safety record in transportation. Also the most common catalyst for this design uses platinum, a rather expensive metal.

The type of fuel cell Aalto University developed uses alcohol, either methanol or ethanol, for fuel and palladium for a catalyst. These alcohols are considerably safer to transport and easier to store, as they are liquids at room temperature. Palladium is half as expensive as platinum too, so this design will not only be safer and easier to work with, but also cheaper.

While the researchers have advanced fuel cell technology, you may not want to hold out for a vehicle using one of these fuel cells. Commercial production is not expected to start for another 5-10 years. The good news is you have that much time to save up.



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Locutus on January 2, 2012 01:39PM
Broken code.
Guest_Jim_* on January 2, 2012 02:28PM
Fixed. Not sure what broke it, but it's possible I didn't close a tag correctly somewhere. It was rendering correctly in the editor, but not in the code view.

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