Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Improvements in fuel cell design

07.10.2014

Fuel cells could possibly replace the batteries of mobile phones and laptop computers, and the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country is looking at ways of enhancing their efficiency

Researchers in the renewable energy sector are working hard in this respect. In this context, researchers in the UPV/EHU's Department of Applied Chemistry are exploring possible solutions to improve the efficiency of mobile devices like, for example, mobile phones, laptop computers and vehicles. In other words, they are designing new ways of obtaining energy in a cleaner, safer and more affordable way.

Fuel cells are totally appropriate systems for substituting the batteries of mobile phones, laptop computers and vehicles. They turn the energy resulting from the combining of hydrogen and oxygen into electrical power, with water vapour being the only waste product. In other words, they generate energy in the same way that batteries do, but they do not contaminate.

However, if these fuel cells are to produce energy, they need an external supply of hydrogen, and right now storing hydrogen safely poses difficulties.  That is why what could be a good option is to use a piece of infrastructure that produces gaseous hydrogen inside the cell itself.

In these cases methanol is normally used as the raw material. And methanol is in fact one of the most important fuels used to produce hydrogen. For example, instead of powering mobile phones, laptop computers and vehicles with hydrogen, methanol can be added to them so that the methanol is turned into hydrogen depending on the needs of the device. In the end, the process is the same even though it takes place in two phases.

A special piece of infrastructure has been designed in the course of this research work: a reactor comprising micro-channels. And a micro-reactor a hundred times smaller than a conventional reactor system has been developed. And the size of the reactor is in fact crucial in the case of all these mobile devices.

"It is no easy task developing a reactor comprising micro-channels," explained Oihane Sanz, a researcher at the UPV/EHU's Department of Applied Chemistry. "The choice of materials, the machining of the micro-channels, the assembly of the system and the catalytic coating, among other things, have to be carried out with the utmost care."

They have seen that these reactors comprising micro-channels contribute towards improving the heat transfer to convert the methanol into hydrogen. Thanks to this, the reaction temperature is properly controlled and, therefore, the hot spots in which the carbon monoxide (CO) arises are minimized. If CO is produced together with the hydrogen, the fuel cell can in fact become contaminated. As a result of this contamination, the cell will not function properly and, therefore, the production of energy is halted.

A stable catalyst
Likewise, choosing a catalyst and using a suitable method of depositing it are indispensable conditions for the reaction to take place as efficiently as possible. "One of the biggest difficulties of these reactors made up of micro-channels is inserting the catalyst into these channels that are so small. That is why the aim of this research has been to design a stable catalyst and insert it into the system in the best way possible. In the processes to obtain hydrogen from methanol, palladium (Pd) catalysts are used, and this is precisely what the researchers have done in this case.  Specifically, they used PdZnO. Often, "when incorporating the catalysts into reactors made up of micro-channels, the characteristics of the catalysts are lost. However, with the catalysts used in this study, we have managed not only to maintain their characteristics but also carry out the process easily".

With the right infrastructure and catalyst, the micro-reactor designed by the UPV/EHU researchers produces 30 LH2/h.g; the conversion of methanol is 95%, and that of carbon monoxide (CO) less than 1%.  "It is very important to control the production of carbon monoxide as it could contaminate the fuel cell," stressed Sanz. "Systems that produce a bigger quantity of hydrogen (12-50 LH2/h.g) have been documented, but the conversion of the methanol is lower (80 %, and, in some cases, 4 %), and, what is more, marginal products are generated," added Sanz. In the end, this design "enables us to develop a cleaner, safer and less costly process," concluded Sanz.

Additional information
The research was conducted by the Department of Applied Chemistry of the UPV/EHU's Donostia-San Sebastian Faculty led by Prof Mario Montes. Also collaborating were the group led by Prof José Antonio Odriozola of the University of Seville (ICMS-University of Seville Institute of Materials Sciences, US-CSIC-Spanish National Research Council Mixed Centre) and the group led by Profs Gurutze Arzamendi and Luis M. Gandia of the NUP/UPNA-Public University of Navarre.

Bibliographical reference
F.J. Echave, O. Sanz, M. Montes. "Washcoating of micro-channel reactors with PdZnO catalyst for methanol steam reforming" Applied Catalysis A: General: 159 -167 2014.

Matxalen Sotillo | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.ehu.es/

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht System draws power from daily temperature swings
16.02.2018 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

nachricht Researchers at Kiel University develop extremely sensitive sensor system for magnetic fields
15.02.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

Im Focus: Autonomous 3D scanner supports individual manufacturing processes

Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).

Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fingerprints of quantum entanglement

16.02.2018 | Information Technology

'Living bandages': NUST MISIS scientists develop biocompatible anti-burn nanofibers

16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>