Designers develop new fuel cells with two times the operating voltage as hydrogen

Jun 19, 2020 11:55 AM ET
  • Electrification of the transport sector - among the largest customers of energy worldwide - is vital to future energy and also environmental durability. Electrification of this market will certainly require high-power fuel cells (either stand alone or combined with batteries) to promote the transition to electric cars, from automobiles and trucks to watercrafts and aircrafts.
Designers develop new fuel cells with two times the operating voltage as hydrogen
Image: Ramani Lab

Liquid-fueled fuel cells are an eye-catching choice to traditional hydrogen fuel cells since they get rid of the need to transportation as well as shop hydrogen. They can aid to power unmanned underwater lorries, drones and, eventually, electric airplane - all at considerably reduced expense. These fuel cells could likewise work as range-extenders for present battery-powered electric cars, hence advancing their fostering.

Now, engineers at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis have developed high-power direct borohydride fuel cells (DBFC) that operate at dual the voltage of traditional hydrogen fuel cells. Their research study was published June 17 in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science.

The research study group, led by Vijay Ramani, the Roma B. and also Raymond H. Wittcoff Distinguished University Professor, has spearheaded a reactant: determining an ideal range of circulation rates, circulation field architectures as well as house times that make it possible for high power procedure. This strategy addresses essential obstacles in DBFCs, namely proper fuel as well as oxidant distribution as well as the reduction of parasitic reactions.

Notably, the team has actually shown a single-cell operating voltage of 1.4 or better, double that gotten in conventional hydrogen fuel cells, with peak powers coming close to 1 watt/cm2. Doubling the voltage would certainly enable a smaller sized, lighter, extra effective fuel cell layout, which converts to significant gravimetric and volumetric advantages when constructing several cells right into a pile for business usage. Their technique is broadly relevant to other classes of liquid/liquid fuel cells.

" The reactant-transport design technique offers a sophisticated as well as facile means to substantially enhance the performance of these fuel cells while still making use of existing parts," Ramani stated. "By following our guidelines, also current, commercially released liquid fuel cells can see gains in efficiency."

The key to boosting any kind of existing fuel cell modern technology is reducing or eliminating side reactions. The majority of initiatives to attain this goal entail developing new stimulants that encounter significant difficulties in terms of adoption and also field deployment.

" Fuel cell suppliers are normally unwilling to invest significant capital or effort to take on a new product," stated Shrihari Sankarasubramanian, a senior team research researcher on Ramani's group. "But achieving the exact same or far better improvement with their existing equipment as well as parts is a game changer."

" Hydrogen bubbles based on the surface area of the stimulant have actually long been an issue for direct sodium borohydride fuel cells, and it can be lessened by the reasonable layout of the circulation field," said Zhongyang Wang, a former participant of Ramani's lab that gained his PhD from WashU in 2019 and also is now at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago. "With the growth of this reactant-transport strategy, we are on the course to scale-up and also deployment."

Ramani included: "This appealing modern technology has actually been developed with the continual support of the Office of Naval Research, which I acknowledge with gratefulness. We go to the stage of scaling up our cells right into stacks for applications in both submersibles and drones."

The modern technology and its supports are the topic of patent declaring and also are available for licensing.