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PHOTO CAPTION: Science Fiction writer Jules Verne predicted water would be the new coal of the future.

A Fuel Cell That Runs on Water

Jules Verne's science fiction prediction could be nearing reality.

Published: 10-Jun-2010

By Chris Rhodes

It seems too good to be true that water can be used as a fuel, but in a recent paper, a fuel cell has been described which runs on water and air, in which you don't actually "burn" water but a concentration gradient of water is established between the two electrodes, allowing entropy rather than enthalpy to drive the energy output from the cell.

The power output is small, orders of magnitude lower than from hydrogen or methanol fuel cells, but the supply and handling of these flammable fuels is avoided. It is proposed that the cell might be used in applications which require relatively low power consumption, for example sensors of various kinds or emergency signaling units, and that the devices might be used best in desert or warm coastal regions where the water is readily evaporated from the cell, thus maintaining its concentration gradient.

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