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MIT and Sharp join in methanol fuel cell tech


Joint research effort

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Sharp Corporation have announced their success in advancing the technology of liquid fuel methanol for fuel cells. Sharp indicated that the technology will be used in DMFC research and in development of notebook PCs and PDAs.

MIT announced that its researchers have successfully improved the power output of a methanol fuel cell by 50 percent through a new technique that creates the membrane material sitting between the anode and cathode ends in a fuel cell. The membrane material is far less expensive than the traditional material used, Nafion, and does not absorb as much methanol, which makes it function more efficiently.

Methanol is described as being “energy dense,” which means that it holds a lot of energy and it easier to transport and store as a liquid. It’s also far less combustible and safer than liquid hydrogen, and methanol’s by-products are only water and small amounts of carbon dioxide when it is fed into a fuel cell. Backers of methanol as a fuel source for making electricity claim that direct methanol fuel cells are a viable alternative to using hydrogen for the same purposes.

MTI Micro, a fuel cell company manufacturer, has DMFCs that it uses in consumer electronics such as digital cameras and GPS devices. Their cartridges are replaceable like batteries, but are filled with methanol.

Last modified on 19 May 2008
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