Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mini-helicopters With Fuel Cells

Date:
June 11, 2008
Source:
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Summary:
In the future, an unmanned helicopter will search for people trapped in fallen buildings or investigate contaminated terrain. The mini-helicopter will be powered by a very light fuel cell that weighs only 30 grams and has an output of 12 watts.

A stack of lightweight fuel cells: The individual cells are held apart by plastic spacers. Measuring 2 x 5 x 4 centimeters, the structure is not much bigger than a matchbox.
Credit: Copyright Fraunhofer IZM

In the future, an unmanned helicopter will search for people trapped in fallen buildings or investigate contaminated terrain. The mini-helicopter will be powered by a very light fuel cell that weighs only 30 grams and has an output of 12 watts.

The old saying that “there is strength in numbers” also applies to fuel cells. To deliver a high enough power output, a number of cells have to be connected in series. Manufacturers normally stack the fuel cells – a structure consisting of several metal plates, each containing one channel for air and one for hydrogen. This makes the fuel cell stack quite heavy. Together with colleagues at the Technical University of Berlin, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin have developed a fuel cell that weighs only 30 grams and has an output of 12 watts.

The high power density of 400 watts per kilogram has so far only been achieved in considerably larger systems weighing several hundred grams. The fuel cell is light enough to power a twenty-centimeter helicopter. It is being developed by the participants in an EU project, and will be used in future for missions such as locating victims trapped in fallen buildings, monitoring traffic or investigating tracts of land that have been contaminated by chemical accidents.

How did the researchers manage to reduce the weight of the fuel cells so dramatically? “We use very thin, planar fuel cells,” explains IZM team leader Dr. Robert Hahn. “We have replaced the metal plates by lightweight plastic spacers.”

The researchers have no need for an additional pump to provide an adequate air supply: The wind generated by the helicopter’s rotor blades goes directly into the air vents. The scientists had to devise a solution for the hydrogen supply, too, as a conventional pressure tank would be too heavy for the helicopter. “We have built a small reactor containing solid sodium borohydride. If we inject water, this produces hydrogen,” declares Hahn. Since the helicopter always needs about the same amount of energy to stay in the air, the reactor always has to produce a consistent quantity of hydrogen. The researchers have already built a prototype of the lightweight fuel cell.

The helicopter is expected to take off, powered by this fuel cell, in just over a year’s time. For the scientists, the next step is to adjust the hydrogen production to cater for fluctuating energy requirements.

There are plenty of applications for such a fuel cell: It could be used as a charging point for laptop computers and cell phones, for instance.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. "Mini-helicopters With Fuel Cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080606102558.htm>.
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. (2008, June 11). Mini-helicopters With Fuel Cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080606102558.htm
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. "Mini-helicopters With Fuel Cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080606102558.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — Inspired by the way a chameleon changes its colour to disguise itself; scientists in Poland want to replace traditional camouflage paint with thousands of electrochromic plates that will continuously change colour to blend with its surroundings. The first PL-01 concept tank prototype will be tested within a few years, with scientists predicting that a similar technology could even be woven into the fabric of a soldiers' clothing making them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — Strong jet demand has pushed Boeing to raise its profit forecast for the third time, but analysts were disappointed by its small cash flow. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) — As more and more Bluetooth-enabled devices are reaching consumers, developers are busy connecting them together as part of the Internet of Things. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Is Magic Leap, And Why Is It Worth $500M?

What Is Magic Leap, And Why Is It Worth $500M?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) — Magic Leap isn't publicizing much more than a description of its product, but it’s been enough for Google and others to invest more than $500M. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins