New Fuel Cell Design Promises Lower Costs

University of Illinois fuel cell initially intended for laptop computers is first membrane-free alkaline fuel cell.

Published: 25-Mar-2005

The answer to increasing the power available for everything from cars to computers may be as simple as mixing gas and water, says a leading researcher.

A group from the University of Illinois has built the first membrane-free alkaline fuel cell. Announced for the first time on Mar. 22 at the American Physical Society's meeting in Los Angeles, it's a step toward creating an affordable and efficient power source that could increase the battery life of laptop computers and other electronic devices to anywhere between 10 and 40 hours.

Fuel cells, which mix hydrogen compounds with oxygen compounds to create energy, have shown promise as alternative energy sources for everything ranging from cars and trucks to small electronics. "There are different applications all the way from megawatt-producing cells down to 20 to 40 watts," which is about the power needed to run a laptop, says Paul Kenis, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois and the group's leader.

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