June 01, 2008

Fuel Cells...on the Cheap?

Despite completely unrelated text on her chalkboard, one of the Brickmuppets' Crack Team of Science Babes tm reports on progress on the fuel cell front.
  It seems that two separate science teams, one at MIT and one at Basque University in Spain have developed improved Methanol fuel cells that not only have increased output but are dramatically cheaper due to  the reduction in the amount of platinum required.

The inability to find a substitute for platinum has been one of the big sticking points in fuel cell developments and the major hitch in the Administrations ambitious fuel cell initiative from 2001. The previously anticipated substitutes did not pan out.

Methanol fuel cells run at much lower temperatures than other types and are anticipated to have many applications, particularly personal electronics, as they would have far greater run time than any batteries and could in theory be powered by off the shelf rubbing alcohol methanol from a fuel cartridge or something.  Fuel cells in general are also much more efficient than even diesel engines in producing electricity, though they tend to be very fuel specific and there have been scalability problems.

This is potentially a huge breakthrough.

'Science Babe' is a one second gag from Lucky Star that I did not get....screencap was shamelessly stolen from Chizumatic. Go buy the DVD and support Avatars' livelihood!

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 09:20 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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The girl is a take on Becky from Pani Poni Dash. (Becky is blonde, but otherwise looks exactly like that.)

Rubbing alcohol is isopropyl alcohol, not methanol. It's also usually 30% water. But it's possible to buy methanol at the drug store, under that name.

Guess what they make it from? Natural gas, usually. It's possible to create methanol from biomass, but that's not the usual source.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Sun Jun 1 22:50:31 2008 (+rSRq)


Methanol, like all light alcohol, is hygroscopic as all hell, but for use as a fuel you'd like it to have as little water as possible.

If this really does get used for batteries (e.g. for computers) what I anticipate is that they'll sell pre-filled polyethylene ampules of the appropriate alcohol, sort of like the ones they used to sell full of ink for fountain pens when I was a kid.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Sun Jun 1 22:52:59 2008 (+rSRq)

Rubbing alcohol is isopropyl alcohol, not methanol.

Urp...nice catch Steven.

I actually knew that, have since I could read.


Posted by: Brickmuppet at Sun Jun 1 23:14:44 2008 (zNkbd)

4 Sorry for the nitpicking.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Mon Jun 2 01:42:37 2008 (+rSRq)

5 Nothing to be sorry for. Pointing out that 2 utterly dissimilar chemicals are not the same thing is not nitpicking. It's fact checking. It's what makes the blogosphere work. Thanks.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Mon Jun 2 08:50:42 2008 (zNkbd)

6 Someone may comment on this... but isn't methanol the key ingredient in over the counter gas line antifreeze and used in making biodiesel? 

Posted by: Alternative Energy at Fri Dec 26 05:07:49 2008 (cqqS0)

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