Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fuel cells developed for increased airplane efficiency

Date:
June 16, 2014
Source:
Washington State University
Summary:
Researchers have developed the first fuel cell that can directly convert fuels, such as jet fuel or gasoline, to electricity, providing a dramatically more energy-efficient way to create electric power for planes or cars.

Graduate Student Byeong Wan Kwon (l) and WSU Associate Professor Su Ha inspect a fuel cell.
Credit: Image courtesy of Washington State University

Washington State University researchers have developed the first fuel cell that can directly convert fuels, such as jet fuel or gasoline, to electricity, providing a dramatically more energy-efficient way to create electric power for planes or cars.

Led by Professors Su Ha and M. Grant Norton in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, the researchers have published the results of their work in the May edition of Energy Technology. A second paper on using their fuel cell with gasoline has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Power Sources. The researchers have made coin-sized fuel cells to prove the concept and plan to scale it up.

About 10 years ago, the researchers began developing a solid-oxide fuel cell to provide electrical power on commercial airplanes. Fuel cells offer a clean and highly efficient way to convert the chemical energy in fuels into electrical energy. In addition to increasing fuel efficiency and reducing emissions of harmful pollutants, fuel cells are quiet and would be particularly helpful when a plane is at a gate and the main jet engines are turned off.

A solid-oxide fuel cell is similar to a battery in that it has an anode, cathode, and electrolyte and creates electricity. But it uses fuel to create a continuous flow of electricity. The process could be approximately four times more efficient than a combustion engine because it is based on an electrochemical reaction. The solid-oxide fuel cell is different from other fuels cells in that it is made of solid materials, and the electricity is created by oxygen ions traveling through the fuel cell.

Using jet fuel and gasoline to power their fuel cell proved tricky. To avoid the added weight of a device that converts the complex fuel into simpler components, such as hydrogen and carbon monoxide (a mixture called synthesis gas) the researchers wanted to be able to directly feed the liquid fuel into the fuel cell. Furthermore, they had to overcome the problems of sulfur poisoning and coking, a process in which a solid product is created from imperfect combustion. Sulfur is present in all fossil-based fuels and can quickly deactivate fuel cells.

Using a unique catalyst material and a novel processing technique, Ha and Norton and collaborators at Kyung Hee University in South Korea and the Boeing Company in Seattle have produced a high-performance fuel cell that operates when directly fed with a jet fuel surrogate.

"The results of this research are a key step in the integration of fuel cell technology in aviation and the development of the more electric airplane," said Joe Breit, associate technical fellow at Boeing and a participating researcher on the project.

The researchers envision integrating their fuel cell with a battery to power auxiliary power units. These units are currently powered by gas turbines and operate lights, navigation systems and various other electrical systems. The two technologies complement each other's weaknesses, says Ha.

The researchers also have used gasoline to power their fuel cell and envision someday using it to power cars. Vehicles powered in this way could use existing gas stations, rather than having to develop a hydrogen-based infrastructure.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Byeong W. Kwon, Shuozhen Hu, Oscar Marin-Flores, M. Grant Norton, Jinsoo Kim, Louis Scudiero, Joe Breit, Su Ha . Cover Picture: High-Performance Molybdenum Dioxide-Based Anode for Dodecane-Fueled Solid-Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) (Energy Technol. 5/2014). Energy Technology, 2014; 2 (5): 417 DOI: 10.1002/ente.201490009

Cite This Page:

Washington State University. "Fuel cells developed for increased airplane efficiency." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616141543.htm>.
Washington State University. (2014, June 16). Fuel cells developed for increased airplane efficiency. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616141543.htm
Washington State University. "Fuel cells developed for increased airplane efficiency." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616141543.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stranded Whale Watching Boat Returns to Boston

Stranded Whale Watching Boat Returns to Boston

Reuters - US Online Video (July 29, 2014) Passengers stuck overnight on a whale watching boat return safely to Boston. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

AFP (July 29, 2014) Coal mining is one of the major industries in Baluchistan but a lack of infrastructure and frequent accidents mean that the area has yet to hit its potential. Duration: 01:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

AP (July 29, 2014) The U.S. nuclear industry started building its first new plants using prefabricated Lego-like blocks meant to save time and prevent the cost overruns that crippled the sector decades ago. So far, it's not working. (July 29) Video provided by AP
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