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World Biofuels Symposium
November 13-15, 2005
Beijing, China

2nd Annual Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit
December 13-15, 2005
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Hosted by:
Candadian Renewable Fuels Association

National Biodiesel Conference & Expo 2006
February 5-8, 200
San Diego, California
National Biodiesel Board

11th Annual National Ethanol Conference: "Policy & Marketing"
February 20-22, 200
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Sponsored by:
Renewable Fuels Association

22nd Annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo
June 20-23, 200
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

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Posted on  

April 20, 2001

Engineers Eye New Fuel Cell Design

Engineers may have found a way to build electricity-generating fuel cells that are cheaper to manufacture and leave behind nothing but water, according to a new study.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology report they were able to generate modest amounts of electricity for short periods of time by using a design based on a solid acid. The new design has some drawbacks, however, and there are questions about whether its materials would hold up under severe conditions.

Fuel cell research has expanded rapidly over the past decade as automakers, utilities and the electronics industry seek ways to replace the declining supply of fossil fuels - oil, coal and natural gas - that power everything from cars to home appliances.

But engineers have run into problems with fuel cell designs running at either relatively cool or very high temperatures. Cooler temperature fuel cell designs can add to manufacturing cost and reduce efficiency; higher temperature fuel cells typically rely on corrosive molten salts that can cause components to break down.

Sossina Haile and her colleagues at Caltech report in Thursday's journal Nature that they created a possible alternative that runs at mid-range temperatures of 320 degrees by making a ``sandwich'' of cesium hydrogen sulfate - a solid acid - and a platinum catalyst.

They were able to generate a modest amount of current for several days when they pumped hydrogen gas into the acid sandwich, called an electrolyte. The system produced only water as a byproduct.

The system is considered ``dry'' because it uses only gas to generate electricity. Lower-temperature fuel cells rely on water or other liquids, such as methanol, to help the electrolyte generate electricity.

``This is a very preliminary result, but it's a noteworthy result,'' said John Turner, senior scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.  


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