Scientists to develop a cheaper and more efficient fuel cell

A team of United States scientists is embarking on a three year project to develop a cheaper and more efficient fuel cell, with the aim of making fuel cells a viable power source by the end of the decade.

The project, which will begin on 1 October and will be led by researchers from the University of Missouri-Rolla, will cost $3.5 million and will focus on lowering two of the main barriers to the commercial use of fuel cells today – the price of the electricity that they generate, and the temperature at which they operate, a university spokesman told edie.

“The reason fuel cells have not entered into the marketplace is because of the costs involved,” said Dr Harlan Anderson, Curator’s Professor emeritus of ceramic engineering and Director of the University of Missouri-Rolla’s Electronic Materials Applied Research Laboratory (EMARC). “The end result of this project will be a demonstration of the technology.”

The project will involve the development and testing of solid oxide fuel cells, with the ultimate aim to produce a cell capable of generating five kilowatts of electricity, which is enough to power an average house, at a cost of US$400 per kilowatt hour, although this is still expensive compared to existing commercial sources of electricity. The researchers also intend that their fuel cell will operate at 750°C (842°F) or below. Fuel cells currently operate at temperatures as high as 1,000°C (1,832°F).

The US Department of Energy will be providing the bulk of the money for the project, with the University of Missouri-Rolla managing the work. Other members of the consortium include Akers Industries, which will make the fuel cells; as well as the National Renewable Energies Laboratory, the University of Colorado-Boulder, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

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