To safeguard energy for the future and for environmental resilience, electrification of the transportation sector is critical. This is because the transportation sector is one of the leading consumers of energy worldwide. To enable electrification of the transportation sector, this would require high-power fuel cells to be used either to be used on their own or in combination with batteries. The use of high power fuel cells would thus facilitate the shift to electric vehicles.
New Cells showcase Potential for Electrification of Transportation Sector
For this objective, the use of liquid-fueled fuel cells is a viable option in place of traditional hydrogen cells. This is because the former eliminates the need to transport and store hydrogen. And, they can help to provide energy for drones, unmanned underwater vehicles, and eventually aircraft – all at significantly low cost. Besides, these fuel cells could also find use to extend range for current battery-powered electric vehicles, thereby promoting their adoption.
In a bid for this, researchers at the McKelvey School of Engineering have created high-power direct borohydride fuel cells. These cells function at a voltage double to that required by conventional hydrogen fuels cells.
As a result of the study, the team of researchers have pioneered a reactant: detecting an optimal range of flow rates, residence times, and flow field architecture that enable high power operation. Using this approach, it addresses key challenges of direct borohydrode fuel cells, which are proper fuel and oxidant distribution and alleviation of parasitic reactions.
Furthermore, the team has shown a single-cell operating voltage of 1.4 or more, with peak powers nearing 1 watt/cm2. Meanwhile, the operating voltage of direct borohydride fuel cells is double that of conventional hydrogen fuel cells. And, doubling of operating voltage serves advantages of smaller, lighter, and more efficient fuel cell design.