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Power Earth

Physicists Figure Out How To Make Cleaner Fuel Cells (eurekalert.org) 32

Mal-2 writes: An international group of scientists from Russia, France, and Germany have developed ion-exchange synthetic membranes based on amphiphilic compounds that are able to convert the energy of chemical reactions into electrical current. The new development described in the journal Physical Chemistry, Chemical Physics could potentially be used in fuel cells, and in separation and purification processes (abstract).

The molecules in question, with the working names A-Na and Azo-Na, are promising substances that are classified as benzenesulfonates. They are wedge-shaped and can independently assemble themselves into supramolecular structures — complex organized groups of multiple molecules. Depending on the conditions set by the scientists, the molecules form discs, which, in turn, form columns with ion channels inside.

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Physicists Figure Out How To Make Cleaner Fuel Cells

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  • "and a number of improvements will need to be made to fuel cells themselves."

    No mention of the high operating temperatures or precious metals required as catalysts.

    • you mean the platinum that's in every car currently? Advances are being made that will be able to use non-exotic materials in fuel cells.
      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        you mean the platinum that's in every First World car currently

        FTFY.

        How expensive would platinum be if it were in every Chinese, Indian, Mexican, car.

        Advances are being made that will be able to use non-exotic materials in fuel cells.

        Like there are advances in battery tech. Get back to us when they're actually in mass production.

  • by Darth Muffin ( 781947 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @11:09AM (#51209103) Homepage
    Aside from a few boutique USB chargers you can't really get one. They've been promised for some time now as the answer to laptops, a household backup system, small generators, off-grid use, and even powering electric cars.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This would be a step towards that. Fuel cells aren't common because they require expensive catalysts like platinum. If you look carefully, there's no expensive molecules in this catalyst. It's all just organic chemistry, no expensive exotic molecules. If you can produce this stuff cheaply, it'd go a long way to producing inexpensive fuel cells.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sure, here you go:

      http://www.efoy-comfort.com/

      Warning: They're largely disappointing and ridiculously expensive, and the price of the fuel will make you blush. The largest consumer unit generates a whopping 105 watts of power, weighs 19 lbs (just a few pounds lighter than an 800 watt ICE generator, I can't find an ICE generator that produces less power, sorry) and costs $6995. Fuel is consumed at just under 100 ml per hour (which sounds like very little, but consider how little power the unit has to offe

      • Truma had a propane based fuel cell, the VeGA, which was pitched for RV and marine use. Because most RVs had propane, it would help supplement the solar install and keep the batteries topped off without a generator. However, because the technology was so expensive, Truma killed the product a few years ago.

        EFOY is still around, but their niche tends to be being able to have power for low consumption equipment in a remote area where solar panels would be too obvious, such as a weather station in a remote ar

      • The largest consumer unit generates a whopping 105 watts of power, weighs 19 lbs

        So like a cell phone from the 80s. tech improves and gets better. Things have to start somewhere.

  • The waste from the Space Shuttle fuel cells was water and the astronauts drank it. It's part of the reason some of the last shuttle missions to the station involved putting the water recycling system in. Before the recycling system the shuttle dumped its waste water into the station tanks, dumping the water into space was one of the reentry protocols anyways.

    • I couldn't see anything in the article about how these are any "cleaner" than any other kind of fuel cell.

      I'm guessing that the new compounds used are "cleaner" to produce than the old ones, but that is just a guess.

  • Petrol and diesel generators are limited by thermodynamic laws (they do not allow an efficiency coefficient of more than 80% for example), but such laws do not apply to fuel cells.

    OK, I know what the author was trying to say, but dang, if I had put that on paper in my thermo class, Dr Biritz would have run me through with a sword.

    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @12:37PM (#51209677)

      Petrol and diesel generators are limited by thermodynamic laws (they do not allow an efficiency coefficient of more than 80% for example), but such laws do not apply to fuel cells.

      OK, I know what the author was trying to say, but dang, if I had put that on paper in my thermo class, Dr Biritz would have run me through with a sword.

      And, entropy would have increased thereby.

  • Dawn Dish Detergent is the ticket.

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