Posts Tagged ‘fuel cells’

For the second time in a month, it’s very popular among my friends and co-workers that they know a BYU Cougar (the first, of course, after the football game against Oklahoma, exciting my Longhorn-lovin friends and officemates, but I digress…)

From the Edmunds Green Car blog:

Brigham Young University Scientist: Sugar + Weed Killer = Direct Carbohydrate Fuel Cell

BYU-Professor-Gerald-Watt.jpgResearchers at Brigham Young University claim to have developed a fuel cell that harvests electricity from glucose and other sugars known as carbohydrates using a common weed killer as a catalyst.

Lead researcher and BYU chemistry professor Gerald Watt (pictured) said in an article published in the August issue of the Journal of the Electrochemical Society that carbohydrates are very energy rich and that he and his colleagues sought a catalyst that would extract the electrons from the carbs and transfer them to an electrode.

Watt said he and his colleagues discovered a solution in the form of a cheap and abundant weed killer. He described the effectiveness of the herbicide as a boon to carbohydrate-based fuel cells.

By contrast, hydrogen-based fuel cells such as those developed by General Motors require costly platinum as a catalyst.

The study conducted experiments that yielded a 29 percent conversion rate, or the transfer of 7 of the 24 available electrons per glucose molecule, Watt reported.

“We showed you can get a lot more out of glucose than other people have done before,” said Dean Wheeler, who was part of the research team. “Now we’re trying to get the power density higher so the technology will be more commercially attractive.”

This isn’t the first time that a glucose-based fuel cell has been reported. In 2007, Japanese scientists announced they had invented a device that used sunlight to convert glucose into hydrogen to power a fuel cell.

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Researchers at MIT have developed a fuel cell which could revolutionize not only how we get energy but how we think about it. The old model has always been to hook up your home to a power grid and an electric utility which buys electricity from coal and gas-burning power plants (and to a lesser degree nuclear and in the last few years some wind).

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With this breakthrough, we can conceivably turn our homes into “power plants… and gas stations” according to MIT’s Daniel Nocera.

How the solar fuel cell storage would work - from MIT

How the solar fuel cell storage would work - from MIT

With Daniel Nocera’s and Matthew Kanan’s new catalyst, homeowners could use their solar panels during the day to power their home, while also using the energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen for storage. At night, the stored hydrogen and oxygen could be recombined using a fuel cell to generate power while the solar panels are inactive.

This is an important breakthrough that will lead to lower energy prices for us, but we have to act quickly. We need to deploy smart meters in our cities and start getting ready for plug-in hybrids or fully electric vehicles. Bring it up with your Congressman, Senator, State Legislator, City Councilmember, or electric Co-op board member and get ready for the next generation in energy.

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