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Hydrogen-assisted Sailboat Is Dream Come True

Jim Harrington is the very essence of an inventor – with an impressive history of electronic and mechanical product design in astrophysics, geophysics and oceanographic – but it took the experience of messing about on his 42ft ketch Morning Star to inspire this dream.

Published: 30-Dec-2007

'It was early February 07 and I was running up the diesel engine in Morning Star. With diesels, there is smoke, smell, and the noise, all of which cannot be good for me - or the environment. So I thought, is there not a better way? In early 1970 I had seen a fuel cell onboard an Apollo spacecraft and that came to mind, followed by the question, is it time for this technology to be used?"

Since then, Harrington has worked with friend Ian Soutar, who works in the fuel cell laboratory at the University of Victoria, to develop a 5 hp outboard which will cleanly and silently replace the fuel hungry diesel or petrol engine for the weekend sailor. The process is simple: The fuel cell ("a high powered solar panel that works in the dark") powered by hydrogen("sunshine in a bottle") on the boat charges the battery power box; which in turn runs the motor driving the boat without the use of the sails. While under sail, the small fuel cell recharges the battery pack back to full charge in a short time period.

It seems like a modest ambition, but if achieved, it could be the start of a whole new way of powering yachts – not to mention other types of transport. "Not that different from the development of the automobile,"says Harrington, and, referring to the lack of hydrogen pumps on every corner, "and let us also note that there were no gas stations on every corner then, but look at it now."

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