High-Power Hydrogen Fuel Cells
“This is the first process to provide exceptionally high hydrogen yield values at near the fuel cell operating temperatures without using a catalyst, making it promising for hydrogen-powered vehicles,” says Arvind Varma, an R. Games Slayter Distinguished Professor of Engineering and head of Purdue’s School of Chemical Engineering. He’s talking about a new process developed by chemical engineering students at Purdue called “hydrothermolysis.” And this isn’t merely a theory: “We have a proof of concept.”
Hydrothermolysis combines two hydrogen-generating processes: hydrolysis and thermolysis. Hydrothermolysis uses ammonia borade—a powdered chemical containing a 19.6% hydrogen content—to release hydrogen. Ammonia borade is said to have one of the highest hydrogen contents of all solid materials, which researchers say makes it ideal in the process.
One of the biggest obstacles preventing widespread electric vehicle (EV) adoption is the limited energy provided by current batteries, which means limited driving range. Researchers at MIT believe they’re onto a solution. While experimenting with lithium-ion batteries for portable electronics, they found that using a carbon nanotube in place of one of the battery’s electrodes produces 10 times more power than a standard battery. Carbon nanotubes are sheets of carbon atoms rolled into tiny tubes.
Small batteries typically consist of two electrodes (one negative, one positive) and an electrolyte. When in use, lithium ions travel across the electrolyte to the positive electrode, producing electric current. Substituting carbon nanotubes for one electrode allows batteries to store more lithium ions, researchers say, because these nanotubes have more oxygen groups on their surfaces. This, in turn, leads to more power.
Although early research is being conducted using lithium-ion batteries for electronic appliances, researchers say they hope the technology can be carried over to more power-hungry applications, like cars.
Non-Cooling Infrared Sensor
While radar and optical systems are being deployed for driver assistance, infrared devices haven’t to any great extent. But that could change with a new long-wave infrared camera sensor in development by research scientists at Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems. Infrared camera sensors contain microbolometers, temperature-sensitive detectors that translate heat to electrical resistance changes. Fraunhofer researchers are using a specific converter in their camera sensor which converts these resistance changes directly to digital signals. What’s more is the constant cooling—and the expenses that come along with it—typically associated with today’s infrared camera sensors would no longer be necessary. Researchers hope this will make infrared cameras more widely deployed in vehicles. Initial tests have proven successful.