Tag Archives: fuel cells

The Rise Of The Hydrogen Electric Car

China‘s State Council has announced last month a proposal to promote the development and construction of fueling stations for hydrogen fuel-cell cars. It was a Friday, and too late to trade on the news. On Monday, Chinese punters were ready: In the first few minutes of trading, fuel cell-related stocks gained more than $4 billion in market value, with several hitting their daily limits. The bullishness lasted all week. It’s likely to run for much longer. In less than a decade, the Chinese government has used subsidies and other policies to create the world’s largest market for battery-powered electric vehicles. That market isn’t without problems and limits, so the government is looking to diversify its bets on carbon-free transportation. Fuel cells, a technology that’s being hotly pursued in other East Asian countries (as well as the  U.S.), is their favored means of doing it. Chinese investors, having seen the opportunities created by the support for battery-electric vehicles, are right to get in early.

Fuel cells, like batteries, generate electricity that can drive a motor and vehicle. The similarities mostly stop there. Batteries are large, heavy and require charging by electricity that may or may not be generated from renewable resources. By contrast, fuel cells generate electricity (and, as a byproduct, heat and water) when hydrogen interacts with oxygen. They don’t need charging; instead, they require onboard hydrogen tanks, which are both lighter and capable of holding far more energy than a battery (allowing them to travel further). And unlike batteries, which can require hours to charge, vehicles powered in this way can be refueled in minutes, similar to traditional internal combustion engines.

Of course, if it were so easy, hydrogen vehicles would already dominate battery-powered cars (and internal combustion engines, too). Several crucial bottlenecks have inhibited their growth. First, fuel cells are the most expensive components in the car, and for years they’ve made the technology uncompetitive with battery electrics. For example, the Toyota Mirai – the Japanese company’s signature fuel-cell vehicle – sells for around $70,000 (unsubsidized). Meanwhile, Chinese battery-electric vehicles can sell for less than $10,000. Second, fuel cells might be clean-burning but hydrogen is often generated from fossil fuels, including coal. That’s problematic if the goal is carbon reduction. And third, hydrogen infrastructure – everything from pipelines to fueling stations – is both expensive and rare. In China, the cost of a hydrogen station is around $1.5 million. That’s a tough investment to make, especially when there are fewer than 5,000 fuel-cell vehicles operating in the country.

Ultimately, success will require overcoming significant technical and market hurdles. China‘s success in building a battery-electric industry guarantees that it’ll be in the race, if not the eventual leader, in this next stage in decarbonizing transport. For Chinese investors, that’s a bet worth making.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/

Electric Aircraft Powered By Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Developers unveiled a hover craft billed as the first flying vehicle to be powered by hydrogen fuel cells on Wednesday in Southern California, in a show-and-tell that raised some eyebrows but never left the ground.  Massachusetts aerospace company Alaka’i Technologies has thrown its hat into the urban air mobility ring, announcing development of an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The power system differentiates the company’s conceptual five-passenger aircraft, called Skai, from other high-profile battery– and hybrid-powered designs unveiled in recent months. Alaka’i‘s concept is unique because many concepts for eVTOL aircraft would be fully or partially powered by lithium ion batteries, a market-proven but imperfect battery chemistry.

Designed by Alaka’i in partnership with BMW Group’s Designworks division, Skai will eventually be capable of carrying up to five passengers and performing missions such as disaster recovery and medical flights, says Alaka’i, which takes its name from the Hawaiian word for “leader“.


We are moving swiftly and have developed applications for immediate testing and use this year. Our best estimate is Skai will be in practical use in the year 2021,” says Alaka’i co-founder and chief technology officer Brian Morrison.

Skai likely will first perform non-passenger missions, with full certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration to follow, he says. Skai will initially have one pilot and carry four passengers, but the company envisions the design evolving to a fully autonomous, five-passenger aircraft.

Skai will have 400nm (741km) range, ability to carry payloads of 1,000lb (454kg), flight duration of 4h and be capable of about 100kt (185km/h) speeds. Alaka’i expects an eventual Federal Aviation Administration variant of Skai will have capacity to carry five passengers. The conceptual aircraft’s three fuel cells will generate electricity needed to power six motors, each of which will drive a single lifting prop. The company calls the hydrogen fuel system safe and environmentally friendly. The aircraft’s systems will generate hydrogen by stripped it from water in a process called electrolysis.

Fuel cells use an electrochemical reaction to break hydrogen molecules into protons and electrons. The electronics travel through a circuit, creating electricity, then reunite with the protons and with oxygen to create water and heat, according to the US Department of Energy. Morrison declines to specify the state of Alaka’i’s fuel cell technology, calling that information proprietary.

Skai will carry 200 litres (53 USgal) or 400 litres of “liquid hydrogen” in onboard tanks, and refueling will take less than 10min, it says. The fuel cells will have lifespans of 15,000-20,000h of flight, says Alaka’i.

Source: https://alakai.com/

Cheap Nano-Catalysts For Better Fuel Cells

Researchers at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science & Technology (DGIST) in Korea have developed nano-catalysts that can reduce the overall cost of clean energy fuel cells, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Catalysis B: Environmental.

Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) transform the chemical energy produced during a reaction between hydrogen fuel and oxygen into electrical energy. While PEMFCs are a promising source of clean energy that is self-contained and mobile – much like the alkaline fuel cells used on the US Space Shuttle – they currently rely on expensive materials. Also, the substances used for catalysing these chemical reactions degrade, raising concerns about reusability and viability.

DGIST energy materials scientist Sangaraju Shanmugam and his team have developed active and durable catalysts for PEMFCs that can reduce the overall manufacturing costs. The catalysts were nitrogen-doped carbon nanorods with ceria and cobalt nanoparticles on their surfaces; essentially carbon nanorods containing nitrogen, cobalt and ceria. Ceria (CeO2), a combination of cerium and oxygen, is a cheap and environmentally friendly semiconducting material that has excellent oxygen reduction abilities.

The fibres were made using a technique known as electrospinning, in which a high voltage is applied to a liquid droplet, forming a charged liquid jet that then dries midflight into uniform, nanosized particles. The researchers’ analyses confirmed that the ceria and cobalt particles were uniformly distributed in the carbon nanorods and that the catalysts showed enhanced electricity-producing capacity.

The ceria-supported cobalt on nitrogen-doped carbon nanorod catalyst was found to be more active and durable than cobalt-only nitrogen-doped carbon nanorods and platinum/carbon. They were explored in two important types of chemical reactions for energy conversion and storage: oxygen reduction and oxygen evolution reactions.

The researchers conclude that ceria could be considered among the most promising materials for use with cobalt on nitrogen-doped carbon nanorods to produce stable catalysts with enhanced electrochemical activity in PEMFCs and related devices.

Source: https://www.dgist.ac.kr/

Cheap High-Performance Catalysts For Hydrogen Electric Car

The industry has been traditionally deploying platinum alloys as catalysts for oxygen reduction, which is for example essential in fuel cells or metal-air batteries. Expensive and rare, that metal imposes strict restrictions on manufacture. Researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) and Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Germany have discovered an alloy made up of five elements that is noble metal-free and as active as platinum.  The catalytic properties of non-noble elements and their alloys are usually rather poor. To the researchers’ surprise, one alloy made up of five almost equally balanced components offer much better properties. This is because of the so-called high entropy effect. It causes multinary alloys to maintain a simple crystal structure.

Through the interaction of different neighbouring elements, new active centres are formed that present entirely new properties and are therefore no longer bound to the limited properties of the individual elements,” explains Tobias Löffler, PhD student at the RUB Chair of Analytical ChemistryCenter for Electrochemical Sciences headed by Professor Wolfgang Schuhmann. “Our research has demonstrated that this alloy might be relevant for catalysis.”

Headed by Professor Christina Scheu, the research team at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung analysed the generated nanoparticles using transmission electron microscopy. RUB chemists determined their catalytic activity and compared it with that of platinum nanoparticles. In the process, they identified a system made of up five elements where the high entropy effect results in catalytic activity for an oxygen reduction that is similar to that of platinum. By optimising the composition further, they successfully improved the overall activity.

These findings may have far-reaching consequences for electrocatalysis in general,” surmises Wolfgang Schuhmann. The researchers are hoping to adapt the properties for any required reactions by taking advantage of the almost infinite number of possible combinations of the elements and modifications of their composition. “Accordingly, the application will not necessarily be limited to oxygen reduction,” says Ludwig. The research team has already applied for a patent.

The results are published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

Source: http://news.rub.de/

Harvesting Clean Hydrogen Fuel Through Artificial Photosynthesis

A new, stable artificial photosynthesis device doubles the efficiency of harnessing sunlight to break apart both fresh and salt water, generating hydrogen that can then be used in fuel cells.

The device could also be reconfigured to turn carbon dioxide back into fuel.

Hydrogen is the cleanest-burning fuel, with water as its only emission. But hydrogen production is not always environmentally friendly. Conventional methods require natural gas or electrical power. The method advanced by the new device, called direct solar water splitting, only uses water and light from the sun.

If we can directly store solar energy as a chemical fuel, like what nature does with photosynthesis, we could solve a fundamental challenge of renewable energy,” said Zetian Mi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Michigan who led the research while at McGill University in Montreal.

Faqrul Alam Chowdhury, a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering at McGill, said the problem with solar cells is that they cannot store electricity without batteries, which have a high overall cost and limited life.

The device is made from the same widely used materials as solar cells and other electronics, including silicon and gallium nitride (often found in LEDs). With an industry-ready design that operates with just sunlight and seawater, the device paves the way for large-scale production of clean hydrogen fuel.

Previous direct solar water splitters have achieved a little more than 1 percent stable solar-to-hydrogen efficiency in fresh or saltwater. Other approaches suffer from the use of costly, inefficient or unstable materials, such as titanium dioxide, that also might involve adding highly acidic solutions to reach higher efficiencies. Mi and his team, however, achieved more than 3 percent solar-to-hydrogen efficiency.

Source: https://news.umich.edu/