Fuel Cells get their act together

Well, they sure aren't the most sexy things to look at, so why all the excitment? Because they are being touted as the replacement for the fossil-fuel-guzzling, greenhouse-gas-emitting combustion engine. So a lot is resting on their shoulders. At its most basic; hydrogen is feed in one side, oxygen the other side. the hydrogen splits in two - the protons slip through a dividing membrane. But remaining electrons are forced to go around and in doing so, are captured as electricity, before recombining with the oxygen to form little old H2O. Yep, it emits just plain old water. Of course, thats the chemistry, possible in a lab. But getting it to happen in generally available products, like automobiles, is a magic trick, that some of our best scientific minds are currently trying to solve. However, late last week, the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) advised that a "major milestone" had been achieved. They said that "Delphi Corp. has reached a power density level in its fuel-cell program that will greatly reduce the cost of the technology and make fuel cells competitive in the commercial market." Apparently this will allow the fuel cell development to "meet the government's energy-production target of $400 per kilowatt hour -- about one tenth of the cost of energy produced by current fuel cell models." There are several methods of getting a fuel cell to function, but most research is going into Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) technology - the one described above. It's expected that 30 companies, worldwide, will have commerical products out this year, so regardless of looks, it could indeed be an exciting year for fuel cells. Learn more on fuel cell powered vehicles, at fueleconomy.gov a website by both the DOE and EPA. Via ::Sustainable Business and ::Fuel Cell Today [by WM]

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