Fuel cells for all

A joint research project that could help make fuel cells a practical means of powering electric cars has been announced in the US by H2fuel, LLC, and Argonne National Laboratory.

A joint research project that could help make fuel cells a practical means of powering electric cars has been announced H2fuel, LLC, and the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

Fuel cells – powered by hydrogen – have long been known to have great potential for transportation.

As fuel cells grow in popularity as clean energy sources, the need for a ready supply of hydrogen fuel will also rise. To meet that need, scientists in Argonne’s Chemical Technology Division have been working with H2fuel, LLC, as part of a co-operative research and development agreement.

The goal is to develop a compact, low-cost hydrogen generator incorporating technologies developed at Argonne’s Chemical Technology Division.

This device would convert commonly available fuels like petrol, natural gas, propane and methanol into hydrogen gas for use in powering fuel cells.

Fuel cells reportedly generate power more efficiently than internal combustion engines and other conventional power sources, while producing no pollutants.

One of the main barriers to commercialisation, however, has been that most fuel cells require hydrogen gas to operate. At present, hydrogen is expensive and not readily available to consumers. Argonne’s fuel processing technology could very well eliminate that obstacle.

A new company, H2fuel was formed in January 2001 to commercialise fuel processors that generate low-cost hydrogen for fuel cells.

’Our goal is to supply the smallest, most efficient, and least expensive fuel processor to the fuel cell industry,’ said Serge Randhava, President of H2fuel. ’We will be a component supplier to any fuel cell system developer, and we are excited to have gained access to this breakthrough technology.’

Argonne’s Chemical Technology Division is said to have been at the forefront of fuel cell and fuel processing research for more than two decades.

With funding from the Department of Energy’s Office of Advanced Automotive Technologies, a Chemical Technology Division team has been developing unique catalysts and reforming processes to be used in light-duty vehicles powered by fuel cells.

As part of the co-operative R&D agreement, H2fuel has built a fuel processor designed by Argonne’s Chemical Technology Division.

Subsequent testing is said to have demonstrated its fuel flexibility and hydrogen-production capability.

Through a series of catalytic reactions, this first-generation unit converted petrol, pipeline natural gas and ethanol into a gas containing about 45 percent hydrogen.

According to Argonne, the next two years will see H2fuel and Argonne’s Chemical Technology Division further improve this processor to the point where it is ready to enter the marketplace.