Roof Top Hydrogen-Generating Solar Cells for Vehicles

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen Fuel, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Students at the University of Leuven, the Netherlands, have won the first Energy Award, sponsored by Febeliec – the association of industrial energy consumers, a Belgian trade association. Their miniature solar panel produces hydrogen gas when exposed to sunlight, not unlike “artificial leaves” of other researchers.  The bioscience engineers crafted a small square panel that can be mounted to rooftops, including those of cars, to convert water vapor in the air to H2 that could feed fuel cells in the building or vehicle.  This could also reduce CO2 “on a large scale to convert it into useful substances,” according to the team of young scientists. Generating electricity and producing hydrogen at the same time is a neat trick, but the …

EnergyOr Ups the Ante for Endurance

Dean Sigler Fuel Cells, Hybrid Aircraft, Hydrogen Fuel, Sustainable Aviation, Uncategorized 0 Comments

Staying airborne for more than an hour or two might seem like a huge leap for battery-powered electric aircraft.  Inspired designers like Eric Raymond have been able to use solar cells to extend their flights to near-perpetual states.  A large craft like Solar Impulse 2 remains in flight for up to five successive days and nights only through careful energy management and flight planning.  Researchers are looking at hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative to batteries, with the hopes of achieving greater endurance. One company, EnergyOr, has developed two still small fuel cells to power their rotary- and fixed-wing drones, setting several records in the process.  With payloads and maximum takeoff weights that enable carrying a 4K camera or large …

Fuel Cells for Drones: Going for Endurance

Dean Sigler Fuel Cells, Hydrogen Fuel, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Several fuel cell developments show there are lots of options for burning hydrogen, if we can only make and distribute it in great enough quantities.  Most noteworthy, fuel cells could provide increased endurance and range compared to batteries. Professor Gyeong Man Choi and his Ph.D. student Jun Joong Kim, working at the Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH) in South Korea, have developed a miniaturized solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) that can fly a drone for more than an hour.  On the consumer front, their fuel cell would allow cell phones to be charged just once a week. The professor and his students created the fuel cell to directly replace the batteries normally found in cell phones, laptop computers, …

Buckeye Electric Racing Teams Push Several Envelopes

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Despite weather conditions that made hoped-for speeds impossible, the Ohio State University Venturi Buckeye Bullet team set a so-far unofficial one-mile record of 240.320 mile per hour (386.757 kilometers per hour) in their Venturi VBB-3 streamliner.  The aptly named Bullet suffered damage from the rough track because of recent rains on the 12-mile stretch.  Normally, the Bonneville Salt Flats are smooth enough to allow re-use of the vehicle. The Columbus Dispatch reported on the home team.  “’We went faster than we have ever gone with this vehicle, but it was a very difficult week on a very bumpy track and we have done some damage to the vehicle from extreme vibrations,’ said David Cooke, a mechanical engineering graduate student at …

H2 – Many Benefits, Many Challenges

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The benefits of hydrogen are fairly obvious.  It would almost necessarily be a domestically produced material with few environmental shortcomings if made by clean processes.  The challenges to be overcome are many and varied, though – with the biggest obstacle to wide-spread use being in the distribution of the fuel. The U. S. Department of Energy, on its Fuel Economy.gov web site, concedes, “The current infrastructure for producing, delivering, and dispensing hydrogen to consumers cannot yet support the widespread adoption of FCVs (fuel cell vehicles).”  As different strategies are tested and adopted, this is likely to change, as are the costs for fuel cells and their longevity. Auto makers, working to bring FCVs to market, have dropped prices from the …

H2, Where Are You?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Elon Musk publicly disdains hydrogen-powered automobiles, but then he has $5 billion riding on his battery megafactories and continued success with his Tesla line of automobiles.  Others with a more disinterested point of view discuss H2’s difficulties – and its promise as a vehicle fuel. America, for instance, has a mere 128 hydrogen fueling stations, and the European Union only 143 as of February 2012.  Even with planned expansion of this infrastructure (California is spending $180 million in private and public funds on a planned 46 stations), the landscape might not be ready for large numbers of fuel cell vehicles for a decade or more. For comparison, there are about 29,000 battery-charging stations in the U. S., with both government and private enterprise offering …

Batteries, Fuel Cells – or Something Else?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

We’re coming to a parting of the ways in energy storage development for electric cars.  Or we may be coming to a joining of technologies in new and previously unimagined ways.  One side, led by Elon Musk and his Tesla Empire, promotes battery power and development.  Yet, in Tesla’s home state of California, government and private investments in hydrogen vehicles is growing.   Several Asian and European automakers are bringing out fuel cell powered vehicles in the face of low numbers of existing fueling stations.  For all the promotion from either side, future “green” cars may become too expensive for private ownership, and various approaches to providing personal mobility may replace the traditional owner-driver model.  Regardless of the outcomes or market …

Raising Cane at the Battery Works

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

What if a battery could be made with higher energy and power densities than those currently available, while exploiting a natural material that’s both abundant, recyclable and inexpensive?  Last year, the blog reported on Y. H. Percival Zhang’s work with xylose, a sugar found in most plants, to make hydrogen that could be used in fuel cells. Dr. Zhang, with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and biotechnology from Dartmouth University, draws on his unique pair of specialties to inspire his forays into developing novel ways of extracting energy from natural sources. His latest effort is a battery that runs on maltodextrin, a polysaccharide made from the partial hydrolysis of starch.  That starch can be derived from almost any type of …

Fuel Cell Progress in Britain

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado released a document last year on the viability of fuel cells for various applications, including transportation.  The National Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Learning Demonstration Final Report, “analyzed data from more than 500,000 individual vehicle trips covering 3.6 million miles traveled and more than 152,000 [kilograms] hydrogen produced or dispensed.”  The agency tested 180 vehicles over a six-year period. With United States Department of Energy expectations that fuel cell powered vehicles could achieve: • 250-mile driving range • 2,000-hour fuel cell durability • $3/gallon gasoline equivalent (gge) hydrogen production cost (based on volume production) At least two fuel cell manufacturers report results exceeding these numbers, so the major impediment to wide-spread implementation of …

New “Leaf” Turns Over More Energy

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Scientists have been working on imitating nature’s ability to photosynthesize the sun’s energy, much as plants turn that energy into food for their health and growth.  Daniel Nocera, for instance, created an artificial leaf that split water into oxygen and hydrogen that could fire up a small fuel cell and run an electric light.  According to a Science Pub lecture your editor recently attended, an eight-ounce glass of water can power a 60-Watt bulb for 20 hours.  Nocera, in a Pop! Tech talk, claims an Olympic-size swimming pool could supply all the world’s energy needs. Nocera now works at Harvard, but researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), his former home, are taking his work further, detailing all the limitations …