Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Biomass can easily be turned to "bio-coal" carbon. Now, that biomass carbon can be used to drive fuel cells. The only output is pure CO2--the favoured food for plants!
Last year, the director of the Department of Colloid Chemistry at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Prof Dr Markus Antonietti, developed an innovative technique with which any type of biomass can be converted into renewable and climate friendly 'designer coal'. Uses for the carbon are plenty, but professor Antonietti confessed that he and his researchers are part of a growing group of scientists who dream of a Direct Carbon Fuel Cell (DCFC) and a green carbon economy. As its name implies, a DCFC converts elemental carbon into electricity directly, and in a hyper-efficient way - the cells have almost twice the efficiency of most other types of fuel cells and double that of fossil fuel power plants.

...The reaction yields 80 percent of the carbon–oxygen combustion energy as electricity, yet no burning of the carbon takes place. DCFCs for stationary applications provide up to 1 kilowatt of power per square meter of cell surface area — a rate sufficiently high for practical applications. Some developers are designing DCFCs for mobile applications that can deliver energy densities in the range of 1,000–2,000 Wh/kg, far higher than any advanced battery.

...DCFC technology has several potential benefits over other fuel cells. First, it can use a wide variety of very abundant low cost carbonaceous fuels including coal, coke, tar, biomass and organic waste. Conventional fuel cells typically operate on gaseous fuels. The fuel (natural gas, propane, ethanol, etc.) is reformed to a hydrogen syngas, which is fed into the fuel cell stack. The DCFC, however, can operate directly on solid carbon fuel, which is stable, easy to store, handle and transport. DCFCs don't require the construction of an entirely new and expensive infrastructure - which is the case for hydrogen - nor do they lose the energy needed to turn fuel into gas.

Secondly, unlike hydrogen or methanol fuel cells, DCFC use no catalyst or costly noble metals like platinum. This cuts costs, and should increase reliability.___Biopact

This development has all the makings of a fuel cell revolution. Hydrogen has always been a bad bet for mobile and de-centralised fuel cell applications. It is time to grow out of that childish hydrogen fantasy.

Cross-posted from Al Fin

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