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Power Technology

Diamonds Are a Fuel Cell's Best Friend 210

Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers at UC Davis have used nanocrystals made of diamond-like cubic zirconia to develop cooler fuel cells. Even if hydrogen fuel cells have been touted as clean energy sources, current fuel cells have to run at high temperatures of up to 1,000 C. This new technology will allow fuel cells to run at much lower temperatures, between 50 and 100 C. Obviously, this could lead to a widespread use of fuel cells, which could become a realistic alternative power source for vehicles. The researchers have applied for a patent for their technology, but don't tell when fuel cells based on their work are about to appear."
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Diamonds Are a Fuel Cell's Best Friend

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  • great (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:25PM (#19879087)
    Now my girlfriend will be begging for a new car in stead of a ring, thnx alot..
    • Re:great (Score:5, Funny)

      by Selfbain ( 624722 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:32PM (#19879191)
      And a divorce when she discovers they're cubic zirconias.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        And a divorce when she discovers they're cubic zirconias.

        Any man who would like about what the engagement gift deserves the kind of woman who would leave him over something so trivial.

        Hint: an engagement gift should have a clear dollar value, and be something that your significant other wants. If she wants a ring, get her a ring -- but don't forget to have a "how do you feel about engagement gifts" conversation first. Maybe she'd be happy with a $200 ring and a new computer, new car, or just a $4000 vacation somewhere.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        But we all know CZ blendz, so it's cool.
    • Re:great (Score:5, Funny)

      by ttapper04 ( 955370 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:32PM (#19879207) Journal
      First post on slashdot... girlfriend.... Who are you trying to fool?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by utopianfiat ( 774016 )
        posting to show how I don't have the points to mod you funny. I could lose my job laughing this hard you insensitive clod!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by dgr73 ( 1055610 )
        I second that motion. I think I busted my gluteus maximus laughing. This post should get get an exception to the +5 max mod rule.

        ps. Yes, I know it's ass, so don't bother posting a wiseass remark.
    • Why don't you give her a cubic zirconia ring instead of a diamond. The thread title says it's the same as diamond.
    • Cool! (Score:3, Funny)

      by sconeu ( 64226 )
      Cubic Zirconia! You know you are getting a pimped out ride when even your fuel cell has bling!
    • by adisakp ( 705706 )
      I think your theoretical girlfriend would be able to tell the difference between diamond and cubic zirconium even if the submitter thinks they're the same thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cHiphead ( 17854 )
      As much hilarity is to be had with the cubic zarconia angle, I'd like to take a moment to say something real...

      FUCK THESE GUYS AND THEIR FUCKING PATENTING.

      This is technology with real potential to help a debilitating planet, if we started implementing this in 1-2 years, maybe it would actually do something to help save the world from having its natural resources sucked from its insides to the atmosphere. Everyone is so busy raping the planet and trying to get theirs, they don't stop to think about what imp
      • Nope (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Colin Smith ( 2679 )
        You don't understand people. Make something cheap, it simply gets used more. If gas dropped in price tomorrow to half it's current value, in a few years you'd be lucky if cars were getting 15mpg. People literally consume until it hurts.

        Ok, imagine a new power source appears. Very cheap, very efficient. GM and Ford switch their engines to use it. What happens to the price of gas? It drops until it's as cheap or cheaper than the new source and as i said, car engines will get bigger, more powerful and thirstie
  • Uh-oh (Score:3, Funny)

    by Etrias ( 1121031 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:25PM (#19879097)
    Look to DeBeers to rush in and kill this technology. God forbid we have a car that has a CZ solution when only a real diamond can cool forever.
    • Re:Uh-oh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:50PM (#19879435) Journal
      It's the other way around actually...CZs are thermal insulators, so they reduce the rate of heat transfer...That's probably one of the key reasons they're being used in this application.

      Diamonds, on the other hand, are extremely efficient thermal conductors, so they are quite efficient at heat transfer, making them terribly unsuitable to this sort of application where heat is already the major problem.

      So CZ is cheaper, easier to obtain, and (for once) actually has the chemical advantage over the diamond. Cool indeed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nasor ( 690345 )
        The fact that CZs are thermal insulators and diamonds are conductors is only the tip of the iceburg. CZ has virtually nothing in common with diamond, other than a similar appearance. Of course that's all it takes to make CZ a nice diamond replacement in cheap jewelry, but they are fundamentally different in so many ways; they are made of different elements, they have different crystal structures, density, refractive index, hardness, cleavage properties...
    • Re:Uh-oh (Score:4, Funny)

      by HTTP Error 403 403.9 ( 628865 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:50PM (#19879439)

      Look to DeBeers to rush in and kill this technology. God forbid we have a car that has a CZ solution when only a real diamond can cool forever.
      What does a Chicago football team have anything to do with diamonds?
    • DeBeers will rush to tout this tech. One, this will soak up the market for cubic zirconoia. Two, they will advertise it so much that the women who are attracted to bling will have an even worse attitude towards cubic zirconia. "What?!? Why don't you buy me a muffler while you're at it?"
  • Wonderful. (Score:4, Funny)

    by jshriverWVU ( 810740 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:28PM (#19879131)
    Now when people break into my car they wont be after my stereo, but my fuel tank. :)
  • Time to buy stocks in man made diamonds.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:32PM (#19879193)
    ...when she finds out you duped her with a cubic zirconia. You better hope theres no free hydrogen around when she finds out.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      This is actually quite hard to do. CZ's are nearly identical to diamonds.

      So close, in fact, that the company that developed them made more money on the detection device than they ever did on CZ's. The greatest differentiating factor between real diamonds and CZ's that can be detected is thermal conduction [wikipedia.org].
  • Cooler... (Score:5, Funny)

    by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs @ a js.com> on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:32PM (#19879197) Homepage Journal
    I guess the most significant problem with fuel cells was that they just weren't cool enough... this should improve their "oooh" factor. ;-)
    • Well if the 50-100 C range in TFS is to be believed, it'll be a darn sight cooler than some of those Sony laptop batteries [bbc.co.uk]...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Sandbags ( 964742 )
      I don't care how cool they make the tank operate at. This was not something stopping them from being used, only increasing their cost due to insulating layers and radiator systems. Great, man made diamonds make them cooler, but at 3 times the cost, and the only benefit is we can reduce the cost of the cooling systems... Hello?

      Lets face it, there's no way in hell any of us are ever driving a hydrogen car. Heres a list of reasons why:
      1 - If you drive a liquid H2 car, you're driving A BOMB! One that can ne
      • Re:Cooler... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Radon360 ( 951529 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @03:08PM (#19880299)

        Not that I disagree with you that Hydrogen is probably a bad choice for vehicle fuel, there's a few things that are worth pointing out:

        1. "A BOMB" Presumably you meant _A_ (as in singular) bomb, and not an atom bomb. Anything highly flammable can be confined and made to explode. Obviously, hydrogen is no different...but a pressurized tank is really no more likely to explode than a gasoline tank. As the hydrogen is released from a compromised vessel, it will burn vigorously, if it has been ignited, just like natural gas, propane and even gasoline. The one nice thing about hydrogen is that it is lighter than air, so if it does leak, it goes up into the sky and dissipates, unlike gasoline vapors, which hug the ground and will occasionally find an ignition source to flash back to the point of the leak.

        2-5. Agreed

        6. We move natural gas around in pipelines, the same could be done with hydrogen gas. However, it's that expense thing that comes into play. Since the cheapest way to produce hydrogen gas is from steam reformation from natural gas, it would be more economically advantageous to produce hydrogen at least regionally, if not on a smaller scale instead of transporting hydrogen long distances in pipelines.

        7. Pretty much the same thing that happens to large propane tanks. If they catch fire, they can BLEVE (boiling liquied expanding vapor explosion). However, if the tanks are placed underground, the point of ignition for the leak would be enough of a distance away from the tank that this would not be a problem. Remember, hydrogen needs oxygen to burn, too.

        8. Right now it is, anyway. Might be okay for city buses, perhaps.

        9. Agreed

        10. One rather well founded piece of speculation is that it will become a module of a system like many components currently in cars that is simply replaced or swapped out. Even master auto technicians don't crack open the case on a computerized engine control module to fix a faulty component on a board, they simply swap out the whole box, potentially sending the faulty unit back to the manufacturer. Why couldn't a similar principle apply here?

        Also add 11 to your list that hydrogen is usually just an additional (and perhaps unnecessary) step in energy conversion, not an energy source in and of itself. Everything is solar powered, it's just a matter of how many steps of conversion happen between the point where the solar radiation reached earth and where someone puts it to practical use.

        Okay, I've done the Slashdot thing. Countered some of your arguments, although I agree with your stance on the use of hydrogen in privately owned passenger cars. Heck, I even worked in a car analogy (sort of..). Ten reasons on electric cars or ethanol hybrids? Probably can't come up with ten, but the best is "the technology/infrastructure is just not quite there yet"...just the same as it is with hydrogen.

      • Re:Cooler... (Score:4, Informative)

        by nmos ( 25822 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @03:15PM (#19880375)
        Not that I disagree with your point but:

        1 - If you drive a liquid H2 car, you're driving A BOMB! One that can never be turned off, unplugged, get in a bad crash, or run out of fuel or it will explode!

        Sure but that's pretty much true of any energy storage system. It's not like gasoline, or for that matter modern batteries are all that safe either. Also any tank capable of storing compressed H2 is going to be inherrently pretty strong.

        - what happens if the great big H2 tanks at the filling station are involved in an earthquake, terrorist attack, or extended power outage?

        The gas escapes and dispurses? We already have tanks and pipelines with propane and natural gas all over the place and those are far more dangerous than H2 which at least has the advantage of being lighter than air.

        - it's FUCKING expensive!!!
        It looks to me like generating H2 via electrolysis of water is in the same general ballpark effenciency wise as charging/discharging batteries (both somewhere in the 50% range).

        - Solid (metal infused) H2 tanks take approximately 6-8 hours to refill with enough H2 to drive 150 miles. This is MUCH worse than electric only cars. (In fact, using Toshiba's new battery technology, we could refuel electric cars in 90 seconds, to 90% charge.
        - we don't have ANYTHING resembling an industry for transportation, storage, or pumping of H2.


        It's not like we have the infrstructure in place to charge an electric car anywhere near that quickly either in most places. That's a LOT of power.

        - it's too damned big of a system. Cars would have to be the size of hybrid SUVs and loose either 2 seats or the trunk to run on H2 safely.

        Same problem with batteries.

        - will you trust a grease monkey to fix an H2 powered engine? (no offense to my many talented automotive engineering friends) Do you have any idea what it might take to fix an engine like this? can it even be repaired at the component level safely?

        H2 engines are pretty much the same as gasoline engines so I'm not sure why you think they would be more dangerous to work on. Working with an electrical system capable of delivering thousands of watts for an extended period of time doesn't sound exactly safe either.
      • Re:Cooler... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dbrutus ( 71639 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @04:56PM (#19881497) Homepage
        1. Hydrogen's less dangerous than the gasoline we already use
        2. Recharge times don't matter if you have a standard tank form and run your system like propane tank exchanges.
        3. The price is rapidly dropping from $6 gge when GWB came in office to around $4 today and dropping fast. It's projected to drop under $3 gge in 2010 at which point you're within the realm of commercial practicality. 2010 is not that far off.
        4. H2 is created by lots of different creation pathways. Some are very clean while others are fairly dirty. You can change your microbe mix in a water treatment plant to optimize for hydrogen production, for instance, and use the hydrogen to help power the plant.
        5. Actually, we do have such an industry, it would just need to be scaled up to handle a mass changeover. But a thin infrastructure with local production of hydrogen in government pumps on interstates would allow people to travel across the country with a hydrogen car and would be buildable for well under $100M. That would let people start creating demand for more pumps and then the market could take over.
        6. Since you can make hydrogen from just about anything, I think that centralized production is likely to be much less important in a hydrogen world than it is in a petrochem world.
        7. What happens to the H2 tanks is exactly what happens to the gasoline tanks today. Explosions happen. Leaking hydrogen is less of a hazard than leaking gasoline not least of which because hydrogen is very light and will tend to float up pretty quickly, dispersing to harmeless concentrations very fast.
        8. Huge tanks are just nonsense. There are companies that have built normal sized tanks that can hold enough hydrogen to go 300 miles. Right now it's a question of getting the price down to the point where it's practical.
        9. Fine, name one practical alternative. The key bit about hydrogen is that it serves wonderfully as a middleware energy storage mechanism. Everything else either won't scale, won't work, or is likely not dropping in price fast enough to make it in time.
        10. H2 doesn't power the engines in fuel cell cars, electricity does. Batteries aren't getting better fast enough to have electric cars. hydrogen fuel cells get the juice to the electromotors (which I do trust a grease monkey to maintain) and are likely going to start showing up in vehicles in the next 5 years (GM says 2011 which means they're already gearing up car designs today).

        Yeah, you thought up 10 reasons why it won't work. They just have the disadvantage of being bogus, every one.
      • by Turken ( 139591 )
        Maybe next time, instead of just "sitting here thinking of reasons" you should get out and do some research...

        1) Yes, there is a fire/explosion potential. There are also fire/explosion potentials with conventional hydrocarbon fuels and batteries. In fact, ANY system in which energy is stored has the potential to be a hazard. However, when you quantify the potential hazards in terms of flammability/explosion concentration limits, and the physical properties of materials such as vaporization and diffusion
      • 10 - will you trust a grease monkey to fix an H2 powered engine? (no offense to my many talented automotive engineering friends) Do you have any idea what it might take to fix an engine like this? can it even be repaired at the component level safely?

        Hmm...how will it be all that different from the propane conversions done to normal engines? OK, the fuel tank will be different, but everything from there to the motor will be the same as a propane car, and even a garage monkey can do that conversion safely. W
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

        1 - Liquid is only a little over twice as dense (heh, "only") and definitely not worth the added issues.
        2 - High-pressure gas storage tanks, though, are working now (in prototype form, but still) and fairly safe. (It's not like gasoline is safe. Ethanol isn't very happy either, although it's not inherently bad.)
        3 - Getting cheaper all the time.
        4 - Depends on how you make it.
        5,6,7 - Produce hydrogen on-demand. Several technologies exist. Also several storage technologies exist that make this a non-issue

  • CZ = C * 1.4 (Score:5, Informative)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:34PM (#19879235) Journal
    As apparently no one bothered to read even the summary, let me be the first to say there is NO DIAMOND in this solution, real or artificial...It's cubic zirconium, which is a sparkly gem that is often used to simulate diamond, but has neither diamond's chemical makeup, nor its hardness.
    • My gem knowledge is getting rusty: CZ = C * 1.75.

      Basically, in addition to being softer than pure C, CZ is also 1.75 times heavier. Even chemically it's a rip off of diamond; more weight, less strength.
  • When (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:36PM (#19879249)

    The researchers have applied for a patent for their technology, but don't tell when fuel cells based on their work are about to appear."
    They are going to be installed in the new flying cars that they're coming out with.
  • It's not surprising that the slashdot crowd would confuse diamonds and CZ, but science aside, let me assure you, any woman will tell you there is a major difference between the two.

    And I can tell you guys here, if you're (un?)lucky you'll find out there's several thousand noticeable "differences" between a 1 carat CZ and a 1 carat diamond...
  • by witte ( 681163 )
    Time to order a new Dodge Hindenburg.
  • by tOaOMiB ( 847361 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:38PM (#19879279)
    Nowhere in TFA were diamonds mentioned. As numerous posts have already pointed out, cubic zirconia is not diamond-like, it's a cheap diamond substitute. The properties of diamonds have nothing to do with the technology in this article. So why was that added to the summary of an article that doesn't mention it?!?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Loconut1389 ( 455297 )
      Even if TFA was talking about diamonds instead of CZ- they've been making lab diamonds indistinguishable from earth diamonds. The only reason diamonds aren't a penny a pound is because of women and DeBeers.
    • "The properties of diamonds have nothing to do with the technology in this article. So why was that added to the summary of an article that doesn't mention it?!?"

      To give it this nice, shiny feel to it? To make it extra hard for the editor to refuse the article? So it will last forever? To attract girls? To give it a clean, sharp edge? To make it worthwhile? So people can make carbon-copies of it? To karat-whore?
  • by secPM_MS ( 1081961 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:41PM (#19879335)
    While we want fuel cells for transportation purposes to run at low temperatures, it is not obvious that this is appropriate for fixed-point fuel cells. Low temperature fuel cells can handle hydrogen, but I am unaware of them being able to handle hydrocarbon fuels at reasonable loadings. Typically you need temperatures of a few hundred degrees C to enable the molecular reforming for handling of hydrocarbons. This is reasonable for fixed point systems which can be kept at temperature. The higher temperature also allows the use of lower cost catalysts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by msmikkol ( 155023 )
      The press release, which is phenomenally uninformative, fails to mention that the researches are most probably talking about solid oxide fuel cells. SOFCs use yttria stabilized zirconia as their electrolyte, and it conducts oxygen ions only at a high temperature, 800 to 1000 C. That kind of temperature sets severe limits on fuel cell materials, and therefore researcher strive to drive down the operating temperature of SOFCs. Few hundred degrees down and the range of suitable materials grows much larger.

      At t
      • The release was so uninformative to be misleading. I agree about the impact of reducing the solid oxide fuel cell temperature. A few hundred degrees C cooler makes a big difference when you are starting at 900C. Unless a lot of progress is made with nonotubes or metal hydrides, the highest volumetric hydrogen density is probably anhydrous ammonia, which destabalizes at ~ 300 C for cheap catalysts. If I remember properly, membrane materials don't like NH3, but high temperature cells don't care, it decomposes
  • In the article cubic zirconium is mentioned in passing, as an example of an oxide. It is a very iffy speculation. Because the oxides conduct electricity better, because I have invented this new way of making these tiny crystals of oxides, it might be able to reduce the heat losses in many devices, may be even in fuel cells...

    Folks, it does not get any iffier than this. Dont hold your breath waiting for copper fuel cells operating at 50C.

  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:43PM (#19879361) Journal
    1. Diamond? WTF is diamond doing in the title? Cubic zirconia's nothing like diamond unless you believe the ads of people trying to sell you rings with CZ's in them. (And if you've played with gemstones, you might be able to spot those with your bare eyes: they have a 10% different index of refraction of light [uop.edu].

    2. Zirconia has been used for a fuel cell 'catalyst' for a while. Here's a reference [ecnext.com] to a two-year-old paper about a related fuel cell system.

    3. I say 'catalyst' in the above, because zirconia's only sort of a catalyst. While the zirconia remains more or less zirconia, it's not just offering a surface for reaction chemistry: it's actually exchanging oxygen [acs.org] with the reactants during the reaction.

    4. Still, it's interesting and weird that the electrical potential is being transferred by protons, rather than electrons (as per TFA.) I'm not familiar with that, just with holes and electrons, so that bears more reading.
    • by iabervon ( 1971 )
      Electrical potential being transferred by protons is less surprising if you call them H+ ions. If you're getting electricity out of hydrogen fuel, chances are that you're moving some H+ ions around. Calling them "protons" is not strictly inaccurate, although it tends to suggest that you're moving them into or out of atoms, which would be a lot more exciting than what's going on here.
  • "This 2015 Prius had a 60ct cell... but we've taken the rock outta Xibit's ear and given you a full 250ct cell!"
  • by Yokaze ( 70883 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:48PM (#19879421)
    To my knowledge, there are already LTFC (Low-temperature fuel cells), like PEM, which are already working for years in 50-100 deg C range, but the problem is keeping them below the 100 degrees.
    Two years ago, Georgia Tech has announced, that they were capable of pushing it up to 120 deg (source [gatech.edu])
    and last year, Volkswagen announced the development of a fuel cell working at 160 deg (source [worldcarfans.com]).
    • To my knowledge, there are already LTFC (Low-temperature fuel cells), like PEM, which are already working for years in 50-100 deg C range, but the problem is keeping them below the 100 degrees.
      Why not do like BMW and incorporate a closed loop steam engine into your engine bay?
      http://www.gizmag.com/go/4936/ [gizmag.com]

      It's basically another radiator, but it does some work before dumping the excess heat.
  • by krgallagher ( 743575 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:49PM (#19879429) Homepage
    Here [thenewatlantis.com] is a good article on why hydrogen is not an ideal fuel source. It is written by Dr. Robert Zubrin [wikipedia.org]. Here is a good quote that points out my favorite objections:

    "So if we put aside the spectacularly improbable prospect of fueling our planet with extraterrestrial hydrogen imports, the only way to get free hydrogen on Earth is to make it. The trouble is that making hydrogen requires more energy than the hydrogen so produced can provide. Hydrogen, therefore, is not a source of energy. It simply is a carrier of energy. And it is, as we shall see, an extremely poor one.

    The spokesmen for the hydrogen hoax claim that hydrogen will be manufactured from water via electrolysis. It is certainly possible to make hydrogen this way, but it is very expensive--so much so, that only four percent of all hydrogen currently produced in the United States is produced in this manner. The rest is made by breaking down hydrocarbons, through processes like pyrolysis of natural gas or steam reforming of coal.

    Neither type of hydrogen is even remotely economical as fuel. The wholesale cost of commercial grade liquid hydrogen (made the cheap way, from hydrocarbons) shipped to large customers in the United States is about $6 per kilogram. High purity hydrogen made from electrolysis for scientific applications costs considerably more. Dispensed in compressed gas cylinders to retail customers, the current price of commercial grade hydrogen is about $100 per kilogram. For comparison, a kilogram of hydrogen contains about the same amount of energy as a gallon of gasoline. This means that even if hydrogen cars were available and hydrogen stations existed to fuel them, no one with the power to choose otherwise would ever buy such vehicles. This fact alone makes the hydrogen economy a non-starter in a free society."

    • The trouble is that making hydrogen requires more energy than the hydrogen so produced can provide.

      Indeed, that is currently so, but many technologies are in development to change that. Sure, for now, the Hydrogen Economy is a myth, but I doubt it will remain so.

      There are other big (huge, even) problems with Hydrogen as fuel for automobiles, though. The biggest of these remaining problems are storage and distribution. Each of these is a massive hurdle to have to overcome, but I think the onboard storage pr
    • According to wikipedia, the best (hydrogen) fuel cells have an efficiency of 70%, carbon fuel cells 80%. Gasoline IC engines generally don't exceed 30%. This makes up most of hydrogen's price disadvantage. Of course, lots of difficulties remain.
    • by dbrutus ( 71639 )
      Try $3.40 for pipelined merchant grade hydrogen. Google it and you'll see that the paper is using old numbers. There is a great deal of effort going into making hydrogen production cheap enough to use as a transport fuel. His calculations on tanks are similarly outdated (most modern hydrogen tank designs use carbon composite, not steel).

      Nobody's saying that hydrogen is an ideal fuel source. It just happens to be one of the most likely candidates to replace gasoline because there is no one fuel source that c
  • Hiyall folks, I'm Electra and for the next hour we have a special on Dimondellia fuel cells. Plug them into your SUV and you can zoom off to the mall! Call the number on the screen... what's that Jeff, ? Sure put her on.... Ionia, can you hear us."? Oh hes, hello Electra, maybe you remember I bought a dozen of these last sunday night during your T.J Hooker countdown of Power? And I'm sooo happyyy with them!!! The protons released like you said and they really glitter as they go into tri-covalent
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:55PM (#19879493) Homepage

    Obviously, this could lead to a widespread use of fuel cells, which could become a realistic alternative power source for vehicles.
    That's not in the article anywhere. Perhaps, since it is so obvious, someone can explain to me how addressing one of the many complications with using fuel cells?

    Slashdot is a meta-news meta-blog site so article summaries are like a game of telephone. A scientist publishes a paper, it is boiled-down for a journalist, the journalist distills that into an article, a blogger summarizes the article, and the article is summarized to Slashdot. Net result: "I found a way to fabricate ziconium oxide at 15nm" becomes "Fuel cells can now become widespread, thanks to diamonds!"
    • Perhaps, since it is so obvious, someone can explain to me how addressing one of the many complications with using fuel cells?

      It's not even a significant complication. What, a 1,000-degree internal operating temperature represents some kind of obstacle to using a technology to drive vehicles? I wonder why we're so heavily-invested in gasoline engines, which see combustion temperatures that are well in excess of 1,000 degrees.

      So what? For laptop batteries and portable electronics, having a fuel cell capab
    • +10 insightful
      +10 commiserate

      I propose a new article posting filter for slashdot: Posters must pass grade-6 reading comprehension and grammar tests.

      One of these days I'm going to snap and just stop reading slashdot.
  • They're dilithium crystals, ye insensitive clod!
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @02:10PM (#19879667) Homepage

    First, it's a Roland the Plogger story, so it's probably wrong.

    Second, it's another one of those "we made some minor advance in materials science on a laboratory scale and this will change the world Real Soon Now" stories. It's too early to be making claims like that. All they have is a new material that might be good for something. Maybe.

    Third, it's one of those surface chemistry/crystal chemistry as "nanotechnology" stories. "Nanotechnology" has turned into a buzzword for getting funding for surface chemistry work.

  • by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @02:14PM (#19879703) Journal
    1) Patent alternative energy for cars 2) ??? No wait, sell patent to big oil 3) Profit
  • by orzetto ( 545509 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @02:25PM (#19879821)

    Even if hydrogen fuel cells have been touted as clean energy sources, current fuel cells have to run at high temperatures of up to 1,000 C.

    ... and this is contradictory how exactly? Just because it's hot does not mean it is inefficient. Indeed, high-temperature FCs have the highest efficiencies, ranging up to 70% with combined cycles.

    This new technology will allow fuel cells to run at much lower temperatures, between 50 and 100 C.

    They already do. Have been for decades. See PEM fuel cells [wikipedia.org]. The point is that there are bunches of possible FC designs around [wikipedia.org], TFA probably meant the SOFCs [wikipedia.org], the only ones to reach 1000 degrees.

    The researchers have applied for a patent for their technology, but don't tell when fuel cells based on their work are about to appear.

    As a fuel-cell researcher (yes I have a damn PhD in the field) I am very skeptical of anything surfacing on news releases and containing the "patent" word—It just makes my bullshit detector go crazy.

    This technology is still very experimental, there is no working prototype, and if I had a penny for every new fuel-cell design that appeared any year I would have Bill Gates cleaning my toilet with his tongue. Besides, the article is quite badly written: it confuses high-temperature SOFC, assumed when the high temperature range is given, with low-temperature FCs that need platinum, which SOFCs do not need at all. It's like confusing an internal-combustion engine with a steam engine.

    I am not saying it is complete vaporware, but it certainly seems overblown. People find new ways to design FCs and their components all the time.

  • Does this mean that until now, proposed fuel-cell solutions for portable computers involved temperatures of 1000 deg. C.? Or is this just hydrogen, and not methanol? Kind of makes the Sony burning batteries seem cool by comparison.
  • Aside from all the obligatory funnies about CZ vs. Diamonds (and all of the female [and not the good kind of] heat energy created but not harnessable when a male substitutes the former for the later...), this seems at best 'kinda sorta interesting'.

    The Carnot law of thermodynamics has a specific ratio that even a fuel cell can't beat, and a temp range of 100C just isn't efficient no matter what fuel is used. (1-273K/373k = about 27% max). So the question is what level of intermediate heat ranges can be de
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by systemeng ( 998953 )
      Fuel Cells are not Carnot limited because they are not heat engines. Carnot limits apply to engines that compress and decompress a gas using heat. Fuel cells are based on electrochemistry and suffer no such restriction.
  • Does not aluminum and Iron melt at that temperature? Also hydrogen is extremely explosive. How safe are fuel cells?

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