Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New catalyst will allow commercialization of revolutionary fuel cells

Date:
June 15, 2011
Source:
Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Summary:
Cheap, much lighter than before and allowing for continuous operation – what traditional batteries can not offer – direct formic acid fuel cells can revolutionize the portable electronics market. A new catalyst will enable a widespread use of fuel cells, researchers say.

Cheap, much lighter than before and allowing for continuous operation -- what traditional batteries can not offer -- direct formic acid fuel cells can revolutionize the portable electronics market. A new catalyst developed at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences will enable a widespread use of fuel cells, researchers say.

You can hardly find a consumer electronics user who would not be irritated by problems with power supply. The batteries run out quickly and require continuous replacements or take a long time charging. Fuel cells could significantly improve the comfort of using electronic devices. Their commercialization, however, is hampered by many technological problems. A new catalyst developed at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw represents a substantial milestone on the way to dissemination of cheap, durable, light and environment friendly fuel cells powered by formic acid.

Fuel cell is a device converting chemical energy into electric power. The current is generated directly due to fuel combustion in the presence of catalysts used on the anode and the cathode of the fuel cell. "Theoretical efficiency of conversion of chemical energy into electric power in the cells can reach even one hundred percent. The best present fuel cells, powered by hydrogen, reach up to 60% in real life. For comparison, the efficiency of low-compression engines is as low as 20%," says Dr Andrzej Borodziński from the IPC PAS.

The biggest obstacle to dissemination of hydrogen fuels is the storage of hydrogen. The issue turned out to be extremely technologically challenging and still is waiting for satisfactory solutions. An alternative to fuel cells powered by pure hydrogen is the methanol fuel cell technology. Methanol, however, is toxic and the methanol powered fuel cells must be produced with expensive platinum based catalysts. Moreover, methanol fuel cells have low power and are operated at a relatively high and so potentially hazardous temperature (approximately 90C).

An alternative solution is formic acid fuel cells. In this case, the reactions occur at room temperature, and the efficiency and power of these fuel cells are clearly higher than those for methanol ones. In addition, formic acid is easy to store and transport. To have, however, formic acid fuel cell stable in operation you need an efficient and durable catalyst.

"The catalyst developed by us has initially lower activity then the existing catalysts made of pure palladium. The difference disappears, however, already after two hours of operation. And further it is only better. Our catalyst is stable in operation, whereas the activity of a pure palladium-based catalyst decreases in time," says Dr Borodziński.

An advantage of the catalyst developed in the IPC PAS, particularly important from the economic point of view, is that it preserves its properties while operated in formic acid of low purity. Such formic acid can be easily produced in large quantities, also from biomass, so the fuel for new fuel cells would be very cheap.

Formic acid produced from biomass would be a fully environment friendly fuel. The reactions involving formic acid in fuel cells generate as products water and carbon dioxide. The latter is, as a matter of fact, a greenhouse gas, but the biomass is obtained from plants which use carbon dioxide for their growth. As a result, formic acid produced from biomass and consumed in fuel cells would not change the content of carbon dioxide in atmospheric air. The risk of natural environment contamination by formic acid is also low.

Formic acid fuel cells would find numerous applications. They would be particularly suitable in portable electronic devices -- mobile phones, laptops or GPS-based devices. They could also be installed as power supply sources in vehicles, from wheelchairs through electric bicycles up to yachts.

At the IPC PAS the research is being undertaken on the first batteries based on formic acid fuel cells. The researchers expect that a prototype of a commercial device should be ready within a couple of years.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences. "New catalyst will allow commercialization of revolutionary fuel cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615062237.htm>.
Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences. (2011, June 15). New catalyst will allow commercialization of revolutionary fuel cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615062237.htm
Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences. "New catalyst will allow commercialization of revolutionary fuel cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615062237.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) Chinese researchers have expanded on Cold War-era tech and are closer to building a submarine that could reach the speed of sound. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) An acute coal shortage is likely to be aggravated as India's supreme court declared government coal allocations illegal, says Breakingviews' Peter Thal Larsen. Video provided by Reuters
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:
from the past week

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