As gasoline prices climb ever higher and the U.S. Senate backs oil drilling in Alaskas Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the possibility of a hydrogen economy -- where drivers tank up on clean-burning hydrogen fuel -- gleams more brightly. But two Northwestern University engineers stress the need to get more out of the fuel we are already using.
"A hydrogen economy is not a perfectly clean system," said Scott A. Barnett, professor of materials science and engineering. "You have to process fossil fuels at a plant to produce hydrogen fuel as well as develop an infrastructure to get that fuel into vehicles. We have bypassed these technological hurdles by basically bringing the hydrogen plant inside and pairing it with a high-temperature fuel cell in one compact unit that has a fuel efficiency of up to 50 percent."
In a paper to be published online today (March 31) by the journal Science, Barnett and graduate student Zhongliang Zhan report the development of a new solid oxide fuel cell, or SOFC, that converts a liquid transportation fuel -- iso-octane, a high-purity compound similar to gasoline -- into hydrogen which is then used by the fuel cell to produce energy. The cells could lead to cost-effective, clean and efficient electrical-power sources for applications ranging from aircraft and homes to cars and trucks.
Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
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