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Untitled. Our plastic waste problem is a large one, and it’s only getting larger. This is a huge environmental problem that requires some big picture thinking, but scientists are also exploring more subtle ways of chipping away at it and that includes turning plastic waste into sources of fuel. New research out of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has thrown another interesting possibility into the mix, with scientists converting consumer plastic into a chemical used to to produce electricity in hydrogen fuel cells by exposing it to sunlight.

The key to the breakthrough was the introduction of a new kind of photocatalyst, which is a material that harnesses light energy to power chemical reactions. In search of new ways to convert plastic waste into useful chemicals, the NTU team turned to a type of affordable, biocompatible metal called vanadium. Nanyang Technological University But the eco-credentials of their technology don’t end there. New algae fuel cell design ramps up the efficiency. We could learn a lot about energy production from plants, who have been tirelessly turning water and sunlight into energy for millions of years. Recently engineers have mimicked photosynthesis with devices like artificial leaves, or harnessed it with fuel cells powered by algae. Now, a University of Cambridge team has developed a new design for the latter, which is apparently five times more efficient than existing devices, and much cheaper to make and easier to use. Algae produce electrons in their cells when they're photosynthesizing, and some of them move to the outside of the cell where they can be collected by devices.

Fuel cells built on this principle are often called biophotovoltaics (BPVs), and they harvest energy through two core processes: charging, which harvests light to produce electrons, and power delivery, which transfers those electrons to an electrical circuit. Latest bionic leaf now 10 times more efficient than natural photosynthesis. Over the last few years, great strides have been made in creating artificial leaves that mimic the ability of their natural counterparts to produce energy from water and sunlight. In 2011, the first cost-effective, stable artificial leaves were created, and in 2013, the devices were improved to self-heal and work with impure water. Now, scientists at Harvard have developed the "bionic leaf 2.0," which increases the efficiency of the system well beyond nature's own capabilities, and used it to produce liquid fuels for the first time. The project is the work of Harvard University's Daniel Nocera, who led the research teams on the previous versions of the artificial leaf, and Pamela Silver, Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School.

Like the previous versions, the bionic leaf 2.0 is placed in water and, as it absorbs solar energy, it's able to split the water molecules into their component gases, hydrogen and oxygen. Source: Harvard. Riversimple launches Rasa, a hydrogen-powered city car for the masses. A new hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle prototype has been launched with a claimed fuel economy equivalent to 250 mpg (0.9 L/100km). Dubbed "Rasa," the new car has a lightweight carbon-fiber monocoque shell, in-wheel electric motors, a bank of supercapacitors charged by braking-regeneration, and a host of other features that enable it to travel up to a claimed 300 miles (483 km) on just a 3.3 lb (1.5 kg) tank of hydrogen.

A road-legal two-seater engineering prototype, the Rasa by Riversimple Movement Ltd UK has been designed from scratch to meet the company's brief of lightness, strength, affordability and safety, as well the maximization of fuel economy and minimization of pollution. Given that the pollution emitted by the Rasa is just 40 gCO2/km "well-to-wheel", even if the hydrogen is sourced from natural gas, and that water is the only substance to come out of the tailpipe, the company is claiming the lowest carbon emissions for any vehicle thus far produced. Drone flight powered by lightweight hydrogen-producing pellets. At first glance, hydrogen fuel cells sound like a great power source for fixed-wing drones making long flights – they have much longer run times than batteries, and they emit no emissions other than water vapor.

Unfortunately, the hydrogen typically has to be stored in large heavy pressurized tanks. Last month, however, a Raptor E1 electric drone made a successful test flight running on a unique new system that's actually lighter than the lithium-ion battery it replaced. The flight was carried out on Jan. 19th at Scotland's Oban Airport, by a team from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).

Although the flight only lasted 10 minutes with the drone cruising at an altitude of 80 m (262 ft), the fuel cell reportedly had enough fuel to fly for two hours. That fuel took the form of approximately 100 small solid pellets contained within an unpressurized cartridge. Ultimately, the technology may even be integrated into full-size passenger-carrying aircraft. About the Author. New catalyst could replace platinum in cheaper fuel cells.

A more cost-effective fuel cell catalyst material consisting of iron-nitrogen complexes embedded in tiny islands of graphene could be used in place of costly platinum. Research by teams at Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin and TU Darmstadt have produced the catalyst material and found that its efficiency approaches that of platinum. To synthesize the mix, the researchers had to devise a way of reducing metal contaminants in the catalyst material to near-zero. Inorganics, usually metals, interfere with a catalyst's efficiency by reducing the oxygen reactions that are at the heart of a fuel cell's catalytic function. The answer was an iron-nitrogen complex "doped" in graphene islands of just a few nanometers in diameter. This Fe-N-C catalyst is being tested and has been found to be capable of achieving levels of activity comparable to common – and expensive – Pt/C (platinum) catalyst materials.

This new catalyst could be used in fuel cells of several types and for many purposes. About the Author. E-Coli Powered Battery. E-Coli Powered Battery (5)Jul-24-13 A group of students have created a biobattery powered by e-coli, offering what could eventually be a new source of renewable energy. A microbial fuel cell (MFC) is made up of an anode and cathode components, just like regular batteries, separated by a partially permeable membrane. Instead of electrolytes, the anode area contains bacteria that break down glucose as part of their metabolic process. This in turn produces electrons that delivered to the cathode. The students, from Bielefeld University, have been investigating different bacteria organisms and have found a way to optimize the e-coli to produce electricity more efficiently. The team plans to present the battery at this year’s international Genetically Engineered Machine competition at MIT in Boston. More Info: Add Comment Comments.

Nanoscale Material Brings Emissions-Free Fuel Cells Closer. Nanoscale Material Brings Emissions-Free Fuel Cells Closer (2)Sep-02-14 Researchers have developed a nanoscale material that that could help bring emissions-free fuel cell-powered vehicles a bit closer to the market. Although fuel cell vehicles will soon be available to consumers, most of those vehicles will still be powered by hydrogen made using natural gas. In search of a fossil fuel-free alternative, the team from Stanford University created a low-cost catalyst that makes it possible to split water at room temperature using only the current from a 1.5-volt battery. The catalyst is made of nickel and iron--in contrast to previous catalysts made of expensive platinum and iridium--and marks the first time anyone has made a catalyst able to function at such a low voltage from non-precious metals.

The Stanford team is now looking at ways to improve the material's durability and make it more feasible for industrial applications. More Info: Kraftwerk Pocket-Sized Fuel Cell. Kraftwerk Pocket-Sized Fuel Cell (2)Feb-04-15 The Kraftwerk portable fuel cell converts butane gas to electricity, letting users power their devices off the grid and all over the world. Already far exceeding its funding goal on Kickstarter, the Kraftwerk fuel cell weighs about seven ounces and can be filled with fuel in three seconds. It runs on standard lighter gas (also called camping gas or LPG), and uses an internal chemical reaction to harvest the hydrogen atoms from the gas to generate electricity.

Devices are charged via the Kraftwerk's USB port, and a single fill-up can fully charge an iPhone up to 11 times. More Info: Imperfect graphene may be perfect for use in better fuel cells. We already knew that graphene was a highly useful material, but just how useful is it? Well, it turns out that even defective graphene may be valuable. According to a team of mostly-American scientists, improperly-formed graphene could find use in next-generation fuel cells. Among other things, those cells might allow electric cars to be recharged in the amount of time that it currently takes to refuel a gas-burning vehicle. Graphene, as many people will already know, is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms, linked together in a honeycomb pattern.

Sometimes, however, its uniform structure is marred by gaps that form between adjacent atoms. We'll get back to those gaps in a moment. Proton exchange membrane fuel cells, meanwhile, work by separating protons from hydrogen. Graphene is of course much thinner, but in its regular form is impermeable to protons at room temperature.

Source: University of Minnesota Share. "Ene-Farm" home fuel cell moves into a condo. The new 'Ene-Farm' home fuel cell installed in a condominium's pipe shaft with the fuel cell on the right, the backup heat source on the left and the hot water unit at the rear Panasonic and Tokyo Gas have continued joint development of their "Ene-Farm" home fuel cell unit, which became the world's first commercialized fuel cell system targeted at household heating and electricity generation when it went on sale in Japan in May 2009. The latest model is aimed at use in condominiums and features a number of modifications to ensure the units meet the more stringent installation standards placed on those buildings.

Like previous Ene-Farm units, the new model uses a fuel processor to extract hydrogen from the city gas supply and react it with oxygen from the atmosphere to generate heat that is then used to generate electricity as well as supply hot water. Source: Panasonic About the Author Post a CommentRelated Articles Just enter your friends and your email address into the form below.

Streaming media: New fuel cell powers a mobile phone with pee. If asked what would be a great power source for mobile phones, it’s a fair bet that most people wouldn't make urine their first choice. But that's exactly what a group of scientists at Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK have done. As part of a project to find new ways to provide electricity for small devices in emergency situations and developing countries they have created a new fuel cell system powered by pee. The key to this rather unorthodox way of powering a phone is a microbial fuel cell (MFC) that converts organic matter directly into electricity. Inside the MFC, there are a mixture of ordinary anaerobic microorganisms that release electrons as they feed – in this case, on the urine. The technology has been under development for 30 years, but because of problems in scaling up the technology to provide significant amounts of power, it has yet to find widespread commercial application.

“One product that we can be sure of an unending supply is our own urine,” says Ieropoulos. Advance could turn wastewater treatment into viable electricity producer. In the latest green energy – or perhaps that should be brown energy – news, a team of engineers from Oregon State University (OSU) has developed new technology they claim significantly improves the performance of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that can be used to produce electricity directly from wastewater. With the promise of producing 10 to 50 times the electricity, per volume, than comparable approaches, the researchers say the technology could see waste treatment plants not only powering themselves, but also feeding excess electricity back to the grid. The electricity-generating potential of microbes has been known for decades, however, it is only in recent years that efforts to increase the amount of electricity generated to commercially viable levels has started to bear fruit.

While the power density of the new technology is impressive, its potential would be hampered somewhat if it was lacking in the water treatment department. Source: Oregon State University.