Development is underway on fuel cell batteries to power portable electronic devices such as laptop computers, MP3 players and cell phones. Developers are using either methanol or hydrogen to power the fuel cells.
Some of the most successful and commercial hydrogen batteries to date use the compound sodium borohydride to produce the necessary hydrogen. Researchers at Purdue University along with companies like Millennium Cell Inc. have developed and are using this technology currently.
Another notable battery that the aerospace industry is using is the nickel-hydrogen battery. According to Molecular Expressions, “The nickel-hydrogen battery has a nickel oxide positive electrode similar to the nickel-cadmium cell, and is like the hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell since it has a hydrogen negative electrode. This hybrid battery has a long cycle life, high specific energy, high power density, and also exhibits tolerance for overcharge, and is therefore the choice battery in many aerospace applications, especially geo-synchronous (GEO) and low earth-orbit (LEO) satellites. In addition, the battery’s hydrogen pressure is a good indicator of the charge state of the battery.”
NASA and Boeing also decided to use nickel-hydrogen batteries to power the International Space Station (ISS). According to NASA, “The electrical power system must not only provide power during the sunlight portion by means of the solar arrays, but also store energy for use during the eclipse. Nickel-hydrogen (Ni/H2) battery cells were selected as the energy storage systems for ISS.”
Continued development of hydrogen batteries, from small to large will help herald in the hydrogen economy in a big way. Many discoveries that are made on a micro level will also be useful in larger applications as well. The new hydrogen economy will be a complicated organism with many little pieces that will need to be assimilated into our daily lives and hydrogen batteries are just one of these pieces.