Hydrogen Fuel Cells on the Verge of Getting Smaller and Better
Bing Energy, a company that manufactures components for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), which recently entered a partnership with Florida State University (FSU), has been subcontracted by the University of Central Florida (UCF) to develop a low-cost and high-efficiency 500 W portable PEMFC system.
Bing Energy’s two-year subcontract is financed by a grant UCF recently received from the Department of Energy to assist in the Hydrogen, Fuel Cells & Technologies Program – Multi-year Research, Development and Demonstration Plan. Under the contract, Bing Energy is responsible for developing high-performance 4cm x 4cm membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) and a 500W stack prototype using the advantages of the buckypaper -based solution.
The final products will be launched to the portable and stationary power generation market. These products can be applied to temporary emergency power backup (both for commercial and residential uses) and are particularly useful in hurricane-prone areas like Florida.
“The products we will develop will lead to a long-term power generation strategy that is less reliant on a few large power generation plants and the aging grid. The benefit will be clean and affordable energy where and when it is needed”, said Richard Hennek, vice president for business development at Bing Energy.
A fuel cell is an energy conversion device that can efficiently capture and use the power of hydrogen, an emissions-free source of energy. Stationary fuel cells can be used for backup power, power for remote locations, distributed power generation, and cogeneration (in which excess heat released during electricity generation is used for other applications). They can power almost any portable application that typically uses batteries, from hand-held devices to portable generators.
The agreement Bing Energy has entered with Florida State University gives the company exclusive use of revolutionary nanotechnology that will create a new generation of hydrogen fuel cells that are less expensive, smaller, lighter and more durable.
The technology was developed by Dr. Jim P. Zheng, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering. The breakthrough is that it reduces the need for expensive platinum components in hydrogen fuel cells. It works with a material known as buckypaper, which is a form of carbon that is extremely light and can easily conduct heat or electricity.
Dr. Zheng has designed a thin material, or membrane, that is thinner and lighter than current components. For that reason, the fuel cell can be smaller and yet still provide the same amount of power.
Until now, fuel cells have been too expensive for mass production and use. Dr. Zheng’s breakthrough makes them viable for mass-market use for the first time, with the potential to transform both transportation and distributed power generation.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, appearing courtesy Justmeans.
photo: Wikimedia Commons.
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