Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed the U. S. stimulus package into law. Before he did so, a solar business owner in Colorado spoke about what the package would mean to the growth of the alternative energy industry.
One person who is excited with the future possibilities is Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, a chemist at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. Kanatzidis along with his associate Gerasimos S. Armatas have developed a new porous honeycomb-like structure capable of stripping hydrogen from more complex gases.
Carbon dioxide and methane are left behind, while hydrogen is captured with this new process. The materials used for the experiment were heavy metal germanium, tellurium and lead, which slow down most other molecules but let hydrogen pass through without inhibition.
Two of the current problems with fuel cells are cost (which is coming down significantly) and longevity. Running impure hydrogen through a fuel cell will cut down its usable life significantly. For instance, GM’s Project Driveway fuel cells are only rated for around 50,000 miles currently.
According to the DOE, the life of a fuel cell needs to be around 150,000 miles in order to become competitive with internal combustion engines. Running high purity hydrogen, such as that created by the chemists at Northwestern University will extend the life of fuel cells and will get us one step closer in realizing the dream of a nationwide hydrogen highway system.