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New Catalyst May Be a Boost For Fuel Cells

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the don't-forget-to-reverse-the-polarity dept.

Power 130

Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers at the University of Houston (UH) have developed a new platinum-based catalyst for fuel cells that is at least four times more efficient and cheaper than existing catalysts. This discovery in fuel cell research may ease reliance on gasoline. According to the researchers, the active phase of the catalyst consists of nanoparticles with a platinum-rich shell and a core made of an alloy of copper, cobalt, and platinum. But it's not enough for this new catalyst to be more efficient and cheaper than a pure platinum one. It also needs to work for a long time — say, the life of a car. So far, the preliminary results look promising, but longer-term testing is needed before this kind of fuel cells can be used to power your car."

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130 comments

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21217251)

Yeah i'm drunk

fuck you (0, Troll)

R00BYtheN00BY (1118945) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217257)

eat a dick zonk

Re:fuck you (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21217381)

I'm drunk and I beat you to First Post! You can eat a dick, because Zonk rocks and you suck ass!

Re:fuck you (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21217499)

Disregard that, I suck cocks.

OK, I've gotta ask (0, Redundant)

gazbo (517111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217261)

What the pissing fuck is it about Platinum that makes it such a good universal catalyst?

Re:OK, I've gotta ask (0, Redundant)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217353)

It's like got good chemical properties and stuff for like catalystizing. Electrons are probably there as well that do something. I hope that answers your question.

Re:OK, I've gotta ask (3, Funny)

Fysiks Wurks (949375) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217417)

Because it's expensive! You get what you pay for.

Re:OK, I've gotta ask (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217645)

Why can't we just bypass all these 'catalyst' intermediate steps, and just go for perfecting the Mr. Fusion © system and be done with it all?

Re:OK, I've gotta ask (5, Informative)

fizzup (788545) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217437)

Platinum is good at binding gas molecules to its surface (adsorbing them), which changes the nature of their electron clouds. This helps overcome the the van der Waals forces that hold them together or apart, making them more likely to react.

Nobody knows for certain just why platinum is good at adsorbing gas molecules to its surface.

Original Journal Articles (4, Informative)

westcoaster004 (893514) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218123)

The original journal articles for those interested in more than a press release:

Efficient Oxygen Reduction Fuel Cell Electrocatalysis on Voltammetrically Dealloyed Pt-Cu-Co Nanoparticles (Strasser et al., Angewandte Chemie International Edition)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.200703331 [doi.org]

Electrocatalysis on Bimetallic Surfaces: Modifying Catalytic Reactivity for Oxygen Reduction by Voltammetric Surface Dealloying (Koh & Strasser)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja0742784 [doi.org]

To fully answer that question would take a whole course on organometallic chemistry to explain, but it has to do with the d-electron configuration of the platinum, (d8), which results in organometallic compounds which can be either square planar or octahedral. The ability to switch between these structures (and related oxidation states) allows for transitions and bonding between the states which allows for the creation of intermediates necessary for catalytic reactions. Bulk platinum (i.e. as a heterogeneous catalyst [wikipedia.org]) also has d-electrons available at the metal surface which can form bonding and anti-bonding ( = bond breaking) bonds with small molecules. Essentially when it is reacting with, say, hydrogen gas, the H2 adsorbs onto the surface and, each atom forming a bond with one Pt atom's d-orbital [wikipedia.org].

A good book might be Heterogeneous Catalysts for the Synthetic Chemist (Google Book Search) [google.com]

Re:OK, I've gotta ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21220237)

Intelligent Design. Ezekiel 1:4 describes the process mentioned here, but basically God intended Platinum to be used for Altars and other stuff, and luckily it needed to be able to absorb priestly "gas" molecules to keep the church pure.

Re:OK, I've gotta ask (2, Informative)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#21220607)

In addition to what's already been said, platinum is very resistant to being corroded even under very nasty conditions. Thus, it doesn't get used up in the process in which it's taking part.

Re:OK, I've gotta ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21220755)

...it doesn't get used up in the process in which it's taking part.
Dude, that's the definition of the word catalyst.

It's too bad cars don't run on methane (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21217299)

because I just ripped a massively long, juicy sounding, sulfurous, stink bomb

Re:It's too bad cars don't run on methane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21217793)

Vlad? That you? Scott Lockwood?

Who's car? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217315)

but longer-term testing is needed before this kind of fuel cells can be used to power your car

How many people here have hydrogen fuel cell cars?

Wha? No one?

Wonder why.

Oh, yeah, 'cause I can't (yet) go down to my local car dealer and walk out with one. And I can't (yet) go to a 'fuel cell recharging station'. Nor can I (yet) purchase hydrogen fuel cells themselves.

It's called economics people. The biggest problem delaying widespread adoption isn't cost or technology related, it boils down to macroeconomics. And there are too many very powerful people who stand to lose a whole lot of money if reliance on gasoline were to suddenly dissapear tomorrow.

That's why you don't have a fuel cell vehicle.

Re:Who's car? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217463)

The money those people would make from gasoline would make a LOT more money with a fuel cell vehicles.

Create a practical fuel cell vehicles, own the patents, use you influence to ban combustion vehicles.

Welcome to trillion dollar land.

Re:Who's car? (1)

daeg (828071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217847)

More like welcome to patents-bought-and-buried-by-US-automotive-land.

Re:Who's car? (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#21220811)

If the patents were bought and buried, there would be enormous political pressure to have them invalidated, or seized outright by the U.S. government. Furthermore, there would be no restraint on China, or Russia, or India, or any other country not to rip off the technology for the enormous gains available. This also would put a the U.S. at a huge economic disadvantage, and cause the patents to be invalidated, seized, or circumvented.

Patents only last 20 years. Be patient and you can use the technology.

It's not the automotive industry that would have the motive to bury the patents; any car company with exclusive rights to such a technology would be capable of dominating the industry. Only an oil company or a cartel of oil companies could have such a motive, and even an oil company could license the technology for enormous profit.

Re:Who's car? (5, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217467)

And, most notably, because fuel cells run on hydrogen, and you can't buy that at a gas station. Hydrogen is very difficult to store, because it has very low density and a high leak rate in most tanks.

In fact, fuel cells can run on other materials, e.g., methane, but this is typically done by the simple trick of using a reformer to produce hydrogen from the methane, and running that hydrogen in a fuel cell. And this can be difficult if the source of the methane is less than extremely pure; in that a lot of common impurities can poison either the catalyst or the reformer.

So, without a good means of storing hydrogen, it's not at all clear that advances in fuel cell technology are terribly useful.

Still, gotta start somewhere...

Re:Who's car? (2, Insightful)

magisterx (865326) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218131)

Yes, but going back to economics, the more effective and thus desirable the fuel cells are, the more incentive there is to do research on storing hydrogen.

Re:Who's car? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218281)

I can make hydrogen at my house from either a) electricy and water or b) natural gas (all three are items I can pull from utilities at my home). I see this is making it much harder for a cartel to restrict my access to the substance.

Re:Who's car? (1)

UltraAyla (828879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218753)

try making hydrogen in bulk (ie, enough to run your car on). Then, watch your energy bill skyrocket in your house and know that your money is going to cartels, but it's just the coal and natural gas ones this time. If you do that, it's probably cheaper and cleaner to buy gasoline.

Re:Who's car? (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219069)

The best way of storing hydogen is probably metal hydrides [wikipedia.org], and the practical metal hydrides require a platinum catalyst, so advances in platinum catalyst technology are, well, terribly useful.

Re:Who's car? (1)

x1n933k (966581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21221161)

Start somewhere like helping people understand the redundancy of Automobiles? Every day (while on a light rail train that travels from city center to rural and sub-urban areas) I watch a chain of thousands of cars that will take close to an hour to travel the distance I'll cover in 15 minutes. Most of these people are alone in their vehicles.

I understand that there is certainly freedom in having personal vehicles however cars and trucks are REALLY inefficient and a waste of money, materials and energy. Can you imagine the mass transportation systems we would have if only a small percentage invested and borrowed money in order to have that system?



I like the idea of a replacement to the automobile for certain uses, but do we all really need to have one?

[J]

enough with the fuel cell (4, Insightful)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217377)

This technology has been 15 to 20 years off for the past 10 years. Improvements in battery technology are here, and cost would come down (much more quickly than fuel cells) if more companies jumped on the electric car bandwagon. We need more companies like this: www.teslamotors.com

Re:enough with the fuel cell (5, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217539)

For now, it's batteries. But in the not too distant future, it may well be supercapacitors. Supercapacitors now are about a factor of ten away from lithium-ion batteries; improvements that are currently in labs appear to be able to remove most or all of that gap. Right now supercapacitors are expensive, but once the market starts growing they should come down in price. There are relatively fundamental limits to how much better traditional batteries can get in terms of capacity, but the apparent limits on supercapacitors are phenomenal. It might be 10 years before they see serious use, but I imagine small-scale use will be here sooner than that, especially if the rumors [arstechnica.com] are to be believed.

Fuel cells are interesting, but I think that direct electrical storage through batteries and later supercapacitors is more likely to actually work out.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217691)

yes supercapacitors are a great (future) option too. the real advantage to forgoing the entire "hydrogen infrustructure" is you can store electricity however you want and you can generate it using several means. Electric cars are effectively "future proof". We can use everything from fossil fuels, to solar power, to antimatter to generate electricity!

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217939)

But how they will handle stealing of energy then? I can cut a wire anywhere in the wild and steal millions of Euros worth of energy into my suitcase (or car).

Price is the answer (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218289)

I can cut a wire anywhere in the wild and steal millions of Euros worth of energy


Right now, you can drill a hole in a pipeline anywhere in the wild and steal millions of Euros worth of gasoline. Now, if only gasoline had a price high enough to compensate the risk of getting caught...

Re:enough with the fuel cell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218325)

How are you proposing to:
A) Suck down that much juice that quickly, and
B) Store that much juice in a suitcase?

If you cut a wire with enough juice flowing through it that you could steal that much power that quickly, you'd probably fry yourself, and I doubt in a few years supercapacitors will be able to store millions of dollars worth of juice in a suitcase if right now we can't even store tens of dollars in a suitcase to power a car.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (4, Funny)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218357)

I think the problem of a person cutting a 700K volt transmission line in the middle of nowhere is self-solving.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

deander2 (26173) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219653)

> Fuel cells are interesting, but I think that direct electrical storage through batteries and later supercapacitors is more likely to actually work out.

you know that batteries store electricity chemically, right? same as a closed-cycle fuel cell system would. only caps store the electrical charge directly.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219839)

Technically true, but beside the point. People who talk about fuel cells for cars aren't talking about a closed system. They're talking about distributing fuel and using atmospheric oxygen, and exhausting the waste products. Part of the reason for this, I imagine, is that closed cycle fuel cell system efficiencies are poor compared to batteries and capacitors. So fuel cells should be lumped in with gasoline engines, diesel engines, non-plugin hybrids, etc. in that comparison.

From a public policy standpoint, the interesting questions are system efficiency, and whether the energy is distributed through the electric grid or by carrying fuel around. Unless I'm missing something, these people are talking about the latter.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21220681)

The next problem with batteries is going to be charging them. Having to wait overnight before your car has more zoom-zoom doesn't really cut it. A gallon of gasoline is about 33 kWh, so if you have a car with a 10 gallon tank and you fill it up in 2 minutes, that means that you are moving 330 kWh in .03 hours, so your instantaneous power would need to be 11 mega watts. That's a lot of juice and even if you have an ultracapacitor at the station to average out the flow from the grid, the cables you'd need to put it into the car would have to be pretty special.

I'm sure that some clever engineering will come up with a way to make this work but it's not a done deal yet. I wouldn't count fuel cells out. I would see it being a lot easier to fill a tank or swap a tank than to charge a battery/ultracapacitor at those levels or to swap out a battery (the tank should be simpler than a battery and less likely to have been damaged/worn out)

Re:enough with the fuel cell (2, Interesting)

2ms (232331) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217655)

Perhaps you aren't aware that the first production fuel cell vehicle is going to be available to the public this coming January? Yes, diesels are the most efficient method right now and more people should be driving them. But this fuel cell Equinox is extremely impressive. Has the interior room of a normal small SUV, and of course the zero emmissions etc.

Also, the Tesla car is hardly anything remarkable. It costs $100,000 and is basically just a Lotus Elise/Opel Speedster with an electric drive-train retrofit. They're more like very expensive kit cars than a ture production EV. Oh, and you do know where electricity comes from, right? It mostly comes from burning coal -- much worse emissions than a modern automotive IC engine.

I agree that EVs are the ultimate future, but we need more nuclear powerplants and/or hydrogen fuel cells for them to truly be better for the environment.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (2, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218315)

You have fun trying to get hydrogen to fuel your "production fuel cell car." I, on the other hand, am going to take my 2008 Tesla Roadster (already have my production number) that I can charge anywhere and enjoy my low emission driving (in northern Illinois, all power provided is generated at nuclear power plants via ComEd). And yes, nuclear power is cleaner than coal generation. Google for it.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

2ms (232331) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218771)

No need to take offense and tell me to google things! You are agreeing with me -- EVs are the ultimate future and we need nuclear power instead of coal. Fuel cells for the electricity will be even better.

That's great you have a Tesla, I'm just saying it's nothing like a mass production car -- it's a Lotus Elise/Opel Speedster with the drive-line swapped for electric and new bodywork. That's a terrific chassis and I hear the batteries are the newest and the propulsion system great too.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219695)

I didn't mean to come off brash, and I apologize if I did so. My only contention is with your assertion that it's not a mass production car. Tesla Motors has already sold the first 100 cars, and I anticipate they'll sell the next 500-1000 easily. That's what it takes to get to mass production. Slowly, the cost will come down, and you'll be able to get a Tesla Roadster one day for (I hope) $30,000USD.

I have a big problem with fuel cells because of the need for a hydrogen infrastructure (which is never going to happen).

Re:enough with the fuel cell (2, Informative)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 6 years ago | (#21220823)

Disclaimer: IAAEVE. (I am an electric vehicle engineer.)

Fuel cells for the electricity will be even better.

Fuel cells will make sense the day we have so much renewable or other "clean" energy that we can afford to throw 80% of it away on the hopelessly inefficient Water electrolysis->Hydrogen->Fuel Cell cycle. Right now qualified renewables in the USA are some fraction of 1%. When do you anticipate we'll hit the 500% mark so that 4/5ths of it can be discarded to make hydrogen?

On the other hand, battery energy density is doubling every 8-10 years, meaning that battery EVs will have a 600-1000 km range within 2 decades -- enough driving for one day, even for the most car-addicted nation on the planet. Battery costs will benefit tremendously from economies of scale, but platinum (for your fuel cells) is not exactly going to get cheaper in quantity.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218479)

Oh, and you do know where electricity comes from, right? It mostly comes from burning coal -- much worse emissions than a modern automotive IC engine

where do you think hydrogen comes from? Almost exclusivly from natural gas. and that produces inefficencies and emmisions.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

2ms (232331) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218807)

Actually, hydrogen mostly comes from electrolysis... If you read the article I linked to, you would see what the plan is on getting hydrogen.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (2, Insightful)

Snorpus (566772) | more than 6 years ago | (#21220157)

Are you sure that, per kWH, a modern IC automotive engine is cleaner than a modern coal-fired plant?

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21220625)

How modern are we talking here when comparing. If you go out and buy a new car with an IC engine, it's going to have 2008 levels of technology for making low emissions. If you got electric, depending on where you live, you could have a very old coal power plant powering that car.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21217677)

I think you're forgetting one little problem: Where the hell are we going to get enough elemental hydrogen to make fuel cells feasible? The scale of that problem alone is rough, and thanks to the laws of thermodynamics can't be magically solved by burning our remaining fossil fuels making hydrogen. Then there's storing all that hydrogen long term. Then distributing all of it somehow.

Even if fuel cell technology were "complete" at this point, it's not a silver bullet. There's other problems to solve first, and they aren't just getting places to sell electric cars so the economics of scale kick in.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21217837)

apples and oranges

batteries only store power

fuel cells make power

Re:enough with the fuel cell (3, Funny)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219947)

Show me a fuel cell that can break 50% efficiency when you include the electrolysis process. Lithium cells are already well over 90%. "Making power" means being over 100% efficient.

A fuel cell is just a fancy battery, and not a particularly good one.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

spectro (80839) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218027)

IMHO what we need is to stimulate human desire to win: An X-prize like challenge for the first electric car to go 500 or 1000, etc miles in a single charge or an electrical car race, something like Indianapolis e500 (electrical 500 miles). Maybe e-Nascar or Formula E

Seriously, enough is enough (2, Insightful)

TheAxeMaster (762000) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218323)

They suck for cars. Period. More efficient than gas, sure. But:
 
1. Requires a complete infrastructure rework, just like electric would.
2. Still lower efficiency.
3. Harder to implement in a vehicle, requiring much more exotic material for efficient energy storage vs. battery tech we already have.
 
I just want an electric car. Ok, actually, I want an affordable (sub-40k) Tesla Roadster-style car, but with four seats and a trunk.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

cyfer2000 (548592) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218545)

I believe biofuel (diesel and alcohol), battery/super capacitor and fuel cell will all get used in the (future) vehicles for some time at some degree. All of them have their own pros and cons. (You may figure out that all of them suck and all of them are promising at some points.) Technology will evolve and products will compete together. If we jump into a conclusion too fast, we are going to make mistakes. This is not a political or religion movement. It's not black and white. It's a war of green, war of dollars in the name of environment. The players in this game are trying to take money from our pockets and take their customers as hostage.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219233)

Ethanol is just a corn subsidy and takes more energy to farm than we get out of it. Bio-diesel makes good sense if you already generate bio waste that you're paying to dispose of, but simply doesn't scale.

Cars will move off of oil when someone figures out a better energy storage device than anyone has yet. Chemical batteries just don't provide an energy density acceptable to most consumers. Other forms of high-density energy storage are far more dangerous than gasoline, and so are impractical for cars. Figure out the "magic battery" and everything changes. With a magic battery, consumer and light industrial power can all switch to solar in most parts of the world, and the greedy corporation that builds the magic battery will make trillions, so it's not like there's a low research budget here. It's just a hard problem.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219409)

Ethanol is just a corn subsidy

To be more precise, corn is one not-very-efficient choice of many possible biosources for ethanol. It's just a highly subsidized one.

Bio-diesel makes good sense if you already generate bio waste that you're paying to dispose of, but simply doesn't scale.

I don't think that's exactly true (especially if you're talking about something like algae farming), but even if it were - have you looked up exactly how much biowaste our society generates?

Cars will move off of oil when someone figures out a better energy storage device than anyone has yet.

Again, to be precise, cars will move off oil when the cost of oil has become so high that the alternatives are cost-effective by comparison (and the pain of transition is less than the pain of paying for the remaining oil).

A really good energy storage device would just be one of the catalysts to convince people to make the transition.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21219015)

Quick google for "hydrogen efficiency": Power plant to wheel efficiency of around 17-22%!!
Battery cars have a power plant to wheel efficiency of around 66%.
Btw, I'm the happy owner of a MES-DEA Twingo quickshift Elettrica. Range: 130km price around 30'000$ with a liquid Natrium(!) - Nickel Zebra battery. Sadly only available in Switzerland and Italy. That's the way to go in metropolitan traffic.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (1)

yusing (216625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21220461)

I've liked the idea of electric vehicles for a long time, but not without new generating capacity. Conventional thermal energy is not very efficient. And, while it'd be nice, it may be a while before people start dropping square-kilometers of solar capacity around the countryside.

Too, massive growth in the use of large banks of batteries will lead to new problems with heavy-metal mining and disposal.

So when very high efficiency fuel-cells (particularly a factor of ten cheaper) show up, they'd probably be preferable to all-electric cars ... especially if they burn low-carbon fuels.

Re:enough with the fuel cell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21221059)

Electric motor have one big disadvantage, and that is lack of heat source.
We need engine that -burns- fuel. Prefably hydrogen. Future cars may run on water that uses battery power for hydrogen extraction and then burn it. So the future car might not be fuel cell or electro mobile, but hybryd of those two technologies.

SI please! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21217449)

"a new platinum-based catalyst for fuel cells that is at least four times more efficient and cheaper than existing catalysts"

Can't we at least have this in libraries of congress please.

It's a good thing (1)

BlueshiftVFX (1158033) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217465)

It's a good thing that is is made of something pricey like platinum instead of cheap and abundant like getting power from salt water or something silly. otherwise we may have a hard time justifying the high cost we wan to charge our consumers!

Platinum-Rich (1, Informative)

imstanny (722685) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217473)

Even if this is a proven method, there's also a cost obstacle to overcome here. Platinum is already used in catalytic converters and those of us who, unfortunately, have a ULEV (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle) Honda Accord ought to know that their converter costs an arm and a leg. FYI: A retail catalytic converter for a ULEV car costs ~$1,800! (It has high platinum density) I managed to get an after market part for $650, and even then that's about twice what you would pay for a normal converter. The point is, there will be an even bigger premium for a hybrid with Platinum batteries. In the mean time, let's hope the gas prices get lower.

Re:Platinum-Rich (0, Flamebait)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217885)

In the mean time, I hope the gas prices go higher. I laugh with delight when I hear people complaining about gas prices, and each time the prices go up I just wish for more. The higher they go, the more punishment is inflicted on losers who buy gas guzzling vehicles. And more importantly, the more incentive there is to move away from fossil fuels. I see no downside to higher gas prices, except that people will have a harder time affording cheap sh** at Walmart. In other words, the American "standard of living" will go down. Which really means it will go up as people get forced out of the rampant consumerism lifestyle.

Stupidest comment in years (2, Insightful)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217927)

Which really means it will go up as people get forced out of the rampant consumerism lifestyle.
If you really believe that crap, I'm sure there's a Vietnamese peasant somewhere who would gladly trade for your current situation.

Re:Stupidest comment in years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21220465)

Why Vietnamese? How about Iraqi?

Re:Stupidest comment in years (1)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 6 years ago | (#21220797)

I do believe that crap. I also believe that there is a middle ground between rampant consumerism and abject poverty that is better than both. So you can keep your false dilemma logical fallacies to yourself - thanks!

Re:Platinum-Rich (1)

Paktu (1103861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218073)

If the "standard of living" in America goes down, it's not the elite fat cats you are railing against that will suffer. It will be the poor and middle class.

Re:Platinum-Rich (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219265)

Yes, that exactly what he delights at the thought of, the sadistic bastard: the suffering of those who have to shop at Walmart to make ends meet.

Re:Platinum-Rich (1)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 6 years ago | (#21220783)

No, they'll just have to ride their bicycles to work every other day and the other days drive a more fuel-efficient car. In the process they'll lose weight and live longer.

RTFA: They crossed that $ threshold (3, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218059)

Even if this is a proven method, there's also a cost obstacle to overcome here.

The point of the article is that
  - the previous Platinum-based catalyst was about 6 times too expensive to be practical for an automotive application, while
  - this one is more than a factor of 6 cheaper, putting it in the running.

In other words they've crossed the affrordability threshold.

If the lifetime testing works out, no roadblocks show up, and something better doesn't come along and obsolete it before it gets deployed, expect this one to actually show up in cars.

Platinum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21217567)

I personally prefer 24K Gold to the Platinum, gives it a warmer look.

Probably a better method... (2, Informative)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217573)

Some researchers at Purdue [purdue.edu] came up with a technique back in May that's probably better than this. It uses a Gallium/Aluminum alloy. Aluminum, when exposed to water, produces hydrogen and aluminum oxide. Normally aluminum produces an aluminum oxide layer immediately on any exposed surface, preventing further reaction. This alloy doesn't have that problem. It's unclear precisely how much platinum they require for this process from the news release, but Platinum is far more expensive than either Aluminum or Gallium. Another advantage is that the Gallium is unaffected and can be reused, while the aluminum oxide can readily be converted back to pure aluminum through Fused Salt Electrolysis. The cost of aluminum would make the cost of using this more than the equivalent of the current ~$3/gallon of gas. If there were enough demand and, using the recycling method, the cost of aluminum could be brought down to make it cheaper than the current cost of gas, however. Of course, electricity for the electrolysis has its own environmental impact...

Oh boy. (1)

cyfer2000 (548592) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218035)

What do you want to do with the hydrogen you make from the Ga/Al? Transfer them to electronic power via a fuel cell?

You clearly don't understand (1)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218423)

what a catalyst is. The aluminum in that reaction is oxidized. The platinum in this reaction is unchanged by it.

Hydrogen from where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21217577)

Isn't oil the only source of hydrogen? How does one make hydrogen without burning oil. If we can't, aren't back to square one?

Re:Hydrogen from where? (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217639)

No. Typically we get hydrogen via electrolysis (though there are other methods). That means electricity. So, any way we can produce electiricity, we can get hydrogen.

Re:Hydrogen from where? (1)

michrech (468134) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218205)

I think what the parent post was getting at, that you seem to have missed, is that there are MANY more coal/oil/gas fired electricity producing plants online than there are for other sources. Thusly, we ARE buring Oil (or Coal, or NG/LNG) to make hydrogen.

Now, if you could pair hydrogen generation up with solar/wind power, we'd be ahead (by how much could be debated -- with all the areas of the US (not to mention other areas) under serious drought conditions now, using the water we do have would be silly, unless you use some of the power from your solar/wind power generation to desalinate the water you will use to make hydrogen in the first place...)

No. Typically we get hydrogen via electrolysis (though there are other methods). That means electricity. So, any way we can produce electiricity, we can get hydrogen.

Re:Hydrogen from where? (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218253)

Typically we get hydrogen via electrolysis


No, that's only done in the food industry, where hydrogen cannot be contaminated by carbon monoxide. The lowest cost way to produce hydrogen is to run a stream of superheated steam over red-hot coal. Carbon combines with the oxygen in the water molecules, releasing hydrogen in the exchange.

Re:Hydrogen from where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218399)

The cheaper way to get hydrogen is through the reformation of Natural Gas. That's pretty much how it's done in the industry. Nobody but laboratories or scientists does electrolysis, unless hydrogen needs to be produced on an industrial site for whatever reason. Usually it's more simple and cheaper to bring bottles of it in, if that's the case.

Fortunately, it's easier to store Natural gas. We should not be concentrating so much on using pure elemental hydrogen for transportation purposes, and should be instead be exploiting the energy in the bond of hydrogen with carbon. Bigger molecules = easier to store.

Re:Hydrogen from where? (1)

gm0e (872436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218473)

No. Typically we get hydrogen via electrolysis (though there are other methods). That means electricity. So, any way we can produce electiricity, we can get hydrogen.
But Wikipedia says: [wikipedia.org]

Currently, global hydrogen production is 48% from natural gas, 30% from oil, and 18% from coal; water electrolysis accounts for only 4%.
So right now we aren't getting much H2 from electrolysis. Certainly not enough to replace automobile fuel anytime soon.

The research of this article claims to increase the efficiency of the fuel cell. Great. Even with a 100% efficiency in the fuel cell itself, if you account for the entire process electrolysis of water and compression hydrogen still make this route inefficient compared to batteries Source [wikipedia.org]. And on top of that, the real bitch is H2 storage that doesn't require unsafe high pressure or a storage medium that is half the size or weight of the car itself in order to go 250 miles. Battery technology is making leaps and bounds compared to H2 storage technology.

Hydrogen is everywhere (4, Interesting)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21217727)

You can get hydrogen from water, for example. It does require energy to extract that hydrogen, but you can use nuclear, wind, or solar power to perform that extraction. The reality is that oil is very unlikely to factor in to producing hydrogen. Unfortunately, coal is the most likely means for producing the requisite energy. For those whose only goal is to liberate us from dependence on Mid-East oil, it's a win. For those of us who care about the environment, it depends on what the energy source is, and is very likely a loss.

Re:Hydrogen is everywhere (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218269)

You can look at it as a loss, or you can look at it as a stepping stone. The move from oil run cars to wind run cars is simply never going to happen, and if by some miracle it did happen, it will be a very long time coming. It is a chicken and egg scenario. You simply cannot reduce the use of oil if every car on the planet uses it to run. If you can get the cars to run off of electricity delivered via hydrogen as a carrier, you have a foot in the door. Even if in the short run, the electricity is generated via coal, you can then attack the coal generation by pushing other forms of electrical generation.

One step back, two steps forward (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218711)

That's not a bad way to look at it. I appreciate your optimism. I'm afraid I'm a little more cynical, in that I believe that the coal industry has their hands in far too many legislator's pockets (of both parties).

Re:One step back, two steps forward (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218877)

Whether the coal industry has any say in the matter will depend on whether a home electrolysis device can be produced. Home generation of electricity is a genie that is already out of the bottle. If there was a reasonable way to store it (i.e. hydrogen) and convert it back to electricity on demand, you would see more and more people move that direction.

I had been under the impression though that most fuel cells could work both ways. If you applied electricity, you could get hydrogen out.

Re:One step back, two steps forward (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219373)

This is quite insightful. If there were a good way of *storing* power generated at home, there'd be no stopping it. Solar cells are (in most areas) good value for money for power generation already, but since they aren't dependable, you still need the power company, and since the power isn't portable, you still need the gas station.

Add a magic battery to the mix, and now you don't need the power company *or* the gas station, you just need a new roof. This kind of self-sufficiency is very appealing in much of America, and would make a lot of sense for light industry as well (where currently solar is nearly useless, since you pay the power comany for peak load, not for usage).

Practical (emission free and easy to store) home electricity generation would be unstoppable.

Re:Hydrogen is everywhere (1)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 6 years ago | (#21220899)

Hydrogen is everywhere

... which isn't very helpful, because at least on Earth, 100% of the hydrogen (in round numbers) is already bonded with something else -- like oxygen, as in H20 -- because that's what hydrogen likes to do. Separating it from other atoms requires energy. Lots of energy.

but you can use nuclear, wind, or solar power to perform that extraction.

And you could put that same (electrical) energy into a lithium-ion battery and go at least 4 times as far. Whether your goal is reducing CO2 emissions, reducing pollution, or simply saving money, it's hard to see why you'd opt for an expensive 20%-efficient solution.

Am I the only one... (1)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218161)

Am I the only one that saw the title and wondered what video card drivers had to do with fuel cell technology?

I think I need to get out more =/

Aikon-

Gasoline Fuel Cells (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218391)

The breakthrough in fuel cells will come when they can deliver 50% or better efficiency from gasoline. Then the dinosaur egg will finally have hatched a chicken, which can then lay a chicken egg: other fuels that fuel cells, and their dependent motors/transmissions/etc, can use. That is a much more likely transition scenario than getting the fuels first, or switching to fuel cells and their fuels simultaneously.

Bah (2, Insightful)

tsotha (720379) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219763)

This discovery in fuel cell research may ease reliance on gasoline.

I don't see how this will do anything to ease the reliance on gasoline. A fuel cell isn't a power source per se - the power still comes from whatever you're feeding it. Whatever you're using as a fuel still requires a power input. This won't do a damn thing for energy independence unless it's coupled with a massive nuclear power plant construction program. And don't go on about wind and solar - even maxed out they barely make a dent.

When that nuclear program finally starts, it's gonna be another decade, at least, before we see any benefit. So assuming they get whatever kinks they have out of the process today, and assuming auto manufacturers rush headlong into production (five year delay), and assuming ignorant opposition ot nuclear power can be overcome in those five years, the earliest this will have any displacement effect on oil is fifteen years from now.

Which, in all practicality, means we'll all be dead before any of this happens.

Re:Bah (2, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219859)

This discovery in fuel cell research may ease reliance on gasoline.

I don't see how this will do anything to ease the reliance on gasoline. A fuel cell isn't a power source per se - the power still comes from whatever you're feeding it. Whatever you're using as a fuel still requires a power input. This won't do a damn thing for energy independence unless it's coupled with a massive nuclear power plant construction program.

How about a coal power plant program? I mean, I realize your agenda is clearly "clean power", but you've slipped into another sometimes-overlapping agenda (really the "foreign oil dependence" one), and this really would make a change in that one. I think you'll find that if you can surpress the need to sound off on your personal set of agendas, you might find yourself able to better engage in thoughtful sociopolitical discourse.

Re:Bah (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219935)

If we're not going to worry about the "cleanliness" of our power, there's no reason to use fuel cells. We can simply make synthetic gas from the coal and pour it into our existing cars. And the "agenda" I slipped into was the one of the post I was responding to - did you notice the quote? Really, your comment makes no sense.

Re:Bah (2, Insightful)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#21220947)

If the catalyst is useful in a gasoline -> reformer -> hydrogen -> fuel cell -> electricity -> electric motor -> power to the wheel system, and that system is more efficient than a gasoline IC engine, it eases the reliance on gasoline. Q.E.D..

Whatever happened to... (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21220923)

What we need is a web site that tracks all the "announcements" of impending magical technical solutions that never transpire and why they never transpired.

I'm jaded yes, we hear announcements all the time about stuff but I never see anything I can buy. It would REALLY interest me.

Basically the web site (and research team) should do something like go back to 1993, read up on the announcements and discoveries predicted to change our lives and then find out what happened to them. I'd buy that info for a dollar!
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