|(Nanowerk News) A Florida State University engineering professor's innovative research with nanomaterials could one day lead to a new generation of hydrogen fuel cells that are less expensive, smaller, lighter and more durable — advantages that might make them a viable option for widespread use in automobiles and in military and industrial technology.|
|Jim P. Zheng is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering, as well as a researcher at FSU's Center for Advanced Power Systems. Working with a material known as carbon nanotubes — essentially a form of carbon that is extraordinarily light and that easily conducts heat or electricity — he has designed a thin material, or membrane, that could reduce the need for expensive platinum components in hydrogen fuel cells.|
| "The driving issue involved in mass production of such fuel cells is one of cost," Zheng said. "Current hydrogen fuel cells use a platinum catalyst, making them too expensive to even consider producing on a large scale. However, by using carbon nanotube membranes, which are highly conductive and with unique properties, it might be possible to reduce the amount of platinum that is required. And since the membrane is thinner and lighter than current components, the fuel cell can be smaller and yet still provide the same amount of power."|
Known as polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, or PEMFCs, this technology was initially developed for military and spacecraft applications at GE. To date, the technology has been extended to a wider scope of applications, with the potential to power a range of devices from mobile phones and laptops to cars, buses, boats, houses and even spacecraft.
FSU Vice President for Research Kirby Kemper emphasized the importance of energy research such as Zheng's at a time when the many economic, environmental and national-security issues related to the United States' dependence on oil make headlines every day.