Feeds

Boffins' breakthrough boosts fuel cell output by 50%

Membrane drain plugged

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with a way to improve the power output of fuel cells by more than 50 per cent: a better membrane.

The material was developed specifically for direct methanol fuell cells (DMFCs) and sits between the cell's two electrodes. It prevents current flowing directly through the cell but also allows hydrogen nuclei - protons, essentially - to pass from the positive electrode to the negative, where they help complete the cell's energy-producing chemical reaction.

Most DMFCs use a membrane material called Nafion - it's a sulfonated tetrafluorethylene copolymer, chemistry buffs - but MIT said this isn't up to snuff: it allows tiny amounts of the methanol fuel to pass through, reducing the potential energy output of the cell.

MIT fuell cell membrane

MIT's membrane: better fuel cells ahoy!

MIT's approach: block Nafion's pores. They coated the substance with a newly developed film - details of which the Institute is keeping mum about for now - and immediately measure the aforementioned 50 per cent increase in energy output over time. That's a sure sign methanol isn't getting through.

Developing the film as a membrane in its own right, the team were about to create a new material that, they claim, is two orders of magnitude less permeable to methanol than Nafion but matches that substance's proton conductivity.

The research work continues: the team is examining the material to see whether it's feasible to use as an alternative to Nafion, or works best alongside it.

MIT's discovery comes a week after Sharp boffins announced a new fuel cell structure that delivers the world's highest power density from a DMFC.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
The total economic impact of Druva inSync
Examining the ROI enterprises may realize by implementing inSync, as they look to improve backup and recovery of endpoint data in a cost-effective manner.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.