Research Energizes Fuel-Cell Potential

Research into new energy sources and component materials may expand potential fuel-cell applications, in some cases by shrinking them to sizes appropriate for laptop computers and small appliances. Investigators at St. Louis University are studying the use of alcohol to power fuel cells of postage-stamp proportions.

06/01/2003


Research into new energy sources and component materials may expand potential fuel-cell applications, in some cases by shrinking them to sizes appropriate for laptop computers and small appliances.

Investigators at St. Louis University are studying the use of alcohol to power fuel cells of postage-stamp proportions. Vodka, gin, white wine and flat beer have been used so far to successfully recharge the units. The units tap the energy released in an enzymatic reaction, an old approach given new life with the introduction of advanced materials. Scientists have coated the cells' electrodes with a special polymer, featuring pores that provide an environment more suitable to the enzymes than previous approaches. In their report to a March meeting of the American Chemical Society, researchers claimed the units could last up to a month on just a few drops of ethanol-based alcohol.

British manufacturer Generics Group, Ltd., is investigating a design that replaces traditional metal flow-field plates with a 1-micron-thick, perforated polymer membrane. The membrane is designed to selectively perform either anode or cathode functions. A Generics Group spokesperson claims the company's design could result in significant cost reductions and a super-slim product that could be produced on a printing press. A 50-watt portable demonstration model is now in development and is planned to be completed in the next 18 to 24 months.

A more conventional approach is now being implemented in King County, Washington, where officials broke ground in April for what they are calling the world's largest sewage-powered fuel-cell plant. The facility will produce up to one megawatt of electricity using methane gas generated at a wastewater treatment plant. Authorities say it equates to about $400,000 annually. The installation will be operated as a federally subsidized demonstration project for two years, to test high energy-conversion claims.





No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Big plans for small nuclear reactors: Simpler, safer control designs; Smarter manufacturing; Industrial cloud; Mobile HMI; Controls convergence
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide
 

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.