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Building Fuel Cells from Kits?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the building-21st-century-batteries dept.

Toys 25

ItsMr.Data asks: "I am looking for a model fuel cell. After checking many web sites, and this one seems to have the best selection. I am wondering if, due to the high cost of the kits, any Slashdot readers have ever built their own fuel cells. I would also like to know if any readers have found any good resellers of kits and supplies."

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This would be cool . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073515)

but I don't know if it can be done. I'm not sure you can create a fuel cell in your kitchen yet. I talked with some people about seeing if you could produce a measurable voltage using some simple setup, maybe a platinum tipped spark plug immerse in teh right fluid or something. We didn't come up with anything.

It just so happens (4, Informative)

ColaMan (37550) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073532)

That I've got a catalogue today with a fuel cell kit [jaycar.com.au] .

It's from an australian company, and it costs AUD299 so it's probably not much help - but it does look like some sort of generic kit. No specs on the cell though :-(

Re:It just so happens (3, Informative)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073771)

Yikes! [outpost.com] This product looks identical. Even figuring for the exchange rate, you guys are getting ripped. I could buy them in the US at retail and still sell for less than AUD299. Interested in importing some? :)

(thanks to a later poster who provided the US link.)

Re:It just so happens (4, Interesting)

mleczko (628758) | more than 10 years ago | (#8074142)

We did some experiments with a fuel cell from Heliocentris [heliocentris.com] . The fuel cell itself was pretty cool. (We had the one with 20 W max. power) Problem is that the prices are pretty hefty and you usually get the fuel cell only, so you have to come up with some way to supply hydrogen etc. Playing with hydrogen also is not a thing I would try at home. Besides, I'm not sure they sell to end-customers. But contacting them may be worth a try... Good luck!

Here's another... (4, Informative)

mOoZik (698544) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073714)

I've been meaning to get one for myself, but haven't yet found the time.

Fuel Cell Kit [outpost.com]

A wee link for the silly people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073886)

Click me [google.com]

Fuel Cells in cars (0)

kiwipeso (467618) | more than 10 years ago | (#8074154)

Has anyone got a list of fuel cell cars ?
I think BMW, Toyota & Ford have fuel cell models, I'm just not sure.
I would love to have a fuel cell car that could do about 500 km on a full tank.

"Building Fuel Cells From Kids" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8074263)

Misread the title... my bad!

platinum catalysts (1)

lkcl (517947) | more than 10 years ago | (#8074393)

if you find a RAV4 EV or any of the other 75kW electric cars, BUY IT. don't ask any questions: BUY IT. the platinum in a 75kW fuel cell is worth about $100,000 USD. you have a cool vehicle pretty much for the next ten or fifteen years and when it goes belly up you can strip the platinum out for more than the vehicle is worth on the road. ... now you know why toyota and the other manufacturers stopped selling these vehicles in march 2003.

Re:platinum catalysts (2, Interesting)

mOoZik (698544) | more than 10 years ago | (#8076806)

Do you have proof of this? It sounds like complete bunk to me.

Re:platinum catalysts (2, Interesting)

ColaMan (37550) | more than 10 years ago | (#8077771)

If there is any quantity of platinum in those fuel cells, then yes the parent poster is right.
For example, the platinum (99.9% pure) for crucibles that we use normally costs about USD650-700/ounce. Because of this, we supply them our old crucibles and scrap platinum and they melt them down and re-refine them.

Re:platinum catalysts (4, Informative)

pla (258480) | more than 10 years ago | (#8077925)

Do you have proof of this? It sounds like complete bunk to me.

Wise default opinion... Even ignoring the economics of the situation (how do they sell a vehicle containing $100k worth of platinum for FAR under $100k?), such an assertion also ignores the requirements of such a fuel cell as well.

First of all, most "platinum" catalysts actually use palladium, still not cheap but a tenth the cost of actual platinum. Second, surface area means everything. The most common way of maximizing surface area of a catalyst involves using it as a componant of the surface of a ceramic material (such as in catalytic converters, which on average use less than a quarter of milligram of palladium). On a similar catalyst-density to a catalytic converter, even using real platinum rather than palladium, you would need a ceramic cube over 250 feet on a side to use up $100,000 worth of platinum).

Finally, even if this particular use required (for some strange reason) non-powdered metal, presenting a solid metalic surface - Making it into a foil bonded to some less expensive metal (copper, for instance) would give you (at least) 125 square feet of surface area. A thick electroplating could beat that by an order of magnitude.

So no, you should not believe it, without some totally irrefutable proof.

Re:platinum catalysts (1)

immel (699491) | more than 10 years ago | (#8082110)

"You can strip the platinum out for more than the vehicle is worth"
Even if there was that much worth of platinum in the car, how would you go about removing it? In just about every industrial application of platinum I've ever seen, the platinum is in a molecule-thick coating (used for its chemical properties) and would be difficult to extract even if you had high-tech equipment and put in lots of time and effort

Re:platinum catalysts (2, Informative)

oldsaint (736226) | more than 10 years ago | (#8084918)

The General Motors concept fuel cell car, also about 75 kW, uses 75 grams of platinum. That is a current ballpark standard, one gram of platinum per kW of power. At current market prices, 75 grams of platinum sells for about $2000. If you want to recover that value from a fuel cell, you have to first remove it from the fuel cell's anode and cathode, and then refine it to market purity. If one fuel cell with 75 grams is all you have, someone in the reclaim industry will buy the fuel cell from you for less than one hundred dollars. So do not buy the car thinking that you will make a killing in the precious metals market.

fuel cell store should have paid more (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8074433)

If they paid more for this ad-slashdot, they would have posted this advertisement-as-story to the main page. Better luck next time.

froogle has kits for $100 (3, Interesting)

fredjflintstone (720631) | more than 10 years ago | (#8074468)

http://froogle.google.com/froogle?scoring=p&q=%22f uel+cell%22+kit&btnG=Search+Froogle Starting at $99.99, and in-stock at $140, there are reversible fuel-cell kit cars.

Not just a toy; this is the the real product. (4, Informative)

bobv-pillars-net (97943) | more than 10 years ago | (#8075187)

Most of the posters here are providing links to "toy" fuel cells, suitable for lab experiments and small robotic toys but vastly underpowered for real-world applications. So I searched a bit further and found the real thing.

Product brochure (PDF format) is here [fuelcellmarkets.com] .

Click here [fuelcellmarkets.com] for a search interface to various fuel-cell products and technologies.

Not a product, vaporware (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 10 years ago | (#8085048)

Astris is not shipping that product. [xlservers.com] They're mostly hyping their stock.

The Coleman AirGen fuel cell power source, heavily hyped in 2000-2001, seems to have sunk without a trace. Coleman blames an unnamed supplier. Ballard claims to be selling the thing for industrial use but links to a distributor that doesn't mention it. Everything Ballard has seems to be a prototype.

There are people selling things that claim to be fuel cells, but are use-once devices. "Zinc air fuel cells" for cell phones are basically batteries.

Nobody really seems to have large fuel cells in production.

The hype in this area is becoming severe. Truly stupid ideas are being proposed, like using electricity to crack water to get hydrogen to be shipped by pipeline to fixed generating plants to be burned to make electricity. Sounds like something Enron would come up with.

So tired (2, Funny)

isorox (205688) | more than 10 years ago | (#8076600)

I swore this said "building fuel cells from kids". Finnaly, a use for the little brats...

Re:So tired (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8077968)

obligatory Matrix reference.....

Homebrew? (3, Interesting)

cr0sh (43134) | more than 10 years ago | (#8079589)

Something you may want to consider is the possibilty of homebrewing your own fuel cell. I think such a thing is entirely possible using off-the-shelf materials, provided one knows what to look for.

For this homebrew effort, I personally think that the "sacraficial anode" type of fuel cell is one that could be done most easily. In these types of fuel cells, a metal anode is decomposed in an electrolyte solution, and it is this decomposition that is used to convey the charges, thus creating the voltage potential. First, take a look at this link [fuelcellstore.com] . This is from the fuel cell store website which was mentioned by the submitter. This link show a product that the store carries which is a sacraficial anode fuel cell. The anode in this case is magnesium-based, the electrolyte is salt water. The cathode is a so-called "diffusion cathode", which performs an oxygen-interface with the surrounding air, via a semi-permeable membrane. This membrane is such that oxygen is allowed in, but the salt water inside stays inside.

Now, this company that supplies this cell to the fuel-cell store gives a good explanation of what is going on. However, it is different from what I remember. I remember that they used to sell a different such fuel cell - one in which the sacraficial anode was alluminium, not magnesium. I can't remember what the chemical reaction was, but it was nearly identical to what goes on with the magnesium based cell. Seeing this, I realized that such a homebrew cell might be possible.

The question is, what to use for materials? Here's the answer I have come up with:

1. Get a piece of PVC pipe with an end cap. Drill a bunch of holes in it, in a pattern of some sort. The more holes, the better, but make sure it is left structurally sound. Install the end cap.

2. Construct a cardboard tube such that its diameter is approximately 1-2mm less than the inside diameter of the PVC pipe.

3. Around this cardboard tube wrap a single layer of stainless steel mesh cloth. Around this wrap a single layer of polyethylene or polypropylene plastic.

4. Slide this inside the PVC pipe. This is your diffusion cathode.

5. In the center of another end cap, attach an alluminium rod. This is your anode.

6. Fill the pipe with a mostly saturated-salt water solution. Insert alluminium rod and cap. The rod should not touch the sides, but instead should hang down the middle of the pipe. Keep the pipe vertical, leave room for air circulation.

7. Profit?

Now, I don't know if this will work. I have not tried it. But I think somewhere in it is gem of truth on how a homebrew fuel cell could be made. The hardest (and most expensive) portion of a fuel cell is the membrane. I think something like cling wrap or plastic freezer could supply the membrane - some kind of plastic that "breaths", and lets air through.

So, could a homebrew fuel cell be made? Try it, and see!

Do it Yourself version... (2, Interesting)

fireshipjohn (20951) | more than 10 years ago | (#8081582)

Try this....

looks interesting....

www.homepower.com/files/fuelcell.pdf [homepower.com]

Re:Do it Yourself version... (2, Interesting)

fireshipjohn (20951) | more than 10 years ago | (#8081730)

Or even more articles.

Hydrogen gets complicated!

Hydrogen articles [homepower.com]

OSFCP (2, Interesting)

ferralis (736358) | more than 10 years ago | (#8087807)

Open Source Fuel Cell Project, anyone? If the talent and expertise of /. could be harnessed, maybe we could do some real good rather than just virtual good? It is my firm belief that the we still need the energy breakthrough to accompany the communications revolution of the last couple of decades... and that cheaper, cleaner energy will be the key to higher standards of living, just as it has throughout history. We've (largely) tackled food supply and shelter (at least we have the ability to do so). Communications tech is getting downright cheap... why not focus on energy- and make certain its available to anyone, anywhere without paying steep licensing costs.

The range of materials available to the average citizen of a first-world country is incredible. Good old-fashioned geek ingenuity and horseback engineering may not create the most efficient fuel cells-- but they may be the most accessible and will almost certainly be the cheapest and most ingenious.

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