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RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

I

nspired by the humble cactus, a

new type of membrane has the

potential to significantly boost the

performance of fuel cells and transform

the electric vehicle industry.

The membrane, developed by scientists

from CSIRO and

Hanyan University

in

Korea,

was

featured in science

journal,

Nature

.

The

research

paper shows that

in hot conditions,

the

membrane,

which has a water

repellent

skin,

improves

the

efficiency of fuel

cells by a factor

of four.

According to CSIRO researcher and

co-author Dr Aaron Thornton, the skin

works in a similar way to a cactus plant,

which thrives by retaining water in harsh

and arid environments.

“Fuel cells, like the ones used in

electric vehicles, generate energy by mixing

together simple gases, like hydrogen and

oxygen,” Dr Thornton said.

"However, in order to maintain

performance,

proton

exchange

membrane fuel cells – or PEMFCs –

need to stay constantly hydrated.

“At the moment this is achieved by

placing the cells alongside a radiator,

water reservoir and a humidifier.

"The downside is that when used in

a vehicle, these occupy a large amount of

space and consume significant power.”

Professor Young Moo Lee from

Hanyang University, who led the research,

said that this could havemajor implications

for many industries, including the

development of electric vehicles.

“At the moment, one of the main

barriers to the uptake of fuel cell electric

vehicles is water management and

heat management in fuel cell systems,"

Professor Lee said.

"This research addresses this hurdle,

bringing us a step closer to fuel cell electric

vehicles being more widely available.

“This technique could also be applied

to other existing technologies that require

hydrated membranes, including devices

for water treatment and gas separation.”

The cross-continent team has been

working together for over 10 years.

MORE INFORMATION

CSIRO

www.csiro.au/en/News

W

hile it may seem to some

like reinventing the wheel,

engineers

from

Oregon

State University have delivered a new

way to boil and control boiling bubble

formation.

This development is groundbreaking

as it may allow everything from industrial

boilers and any other industrial

equipment that relies on the boiling

process to work better and for longer.

The advance not only has implications

for industrial sectors, but could even

impact more domestic items such as irons

and appliances that use steam.

It also means products such as

electronic devices might be able to

release heat more readily and work at a

cooler temperature.

“One of the key limitations for

electronic devices is the heat they

generate, and something that helps

dissipate that heat will help them operate

at faster speeds and prevent failure,”

said Chih-hung Chang, a professor of

electrical engineering from Oregon

State’s College of Engineering. “The

more bubbles you can generate, the more

cooling you can achieve.

“On the other hand, if you want to

create steam at a lower surface temperature,

this approach should be very useful in

boilers and improve their efficiency. We’ve

already shown that it can be done on large

surfaces and should be able to scale up in

size to commercial use.”

For us at home, this new method

has researchers excited because it means

they can now control both boiling and

condensation processes, the bubble onset

and departure frequency, heat transfer

coefficient and critical heat flux.

The technology has the potential to

further the efficiency and technology

surrounding solar energy, radars and

power electronics, or anything that needs

a lot of heat.

MORE INFORMATION

OSU College of Engineering

oregonstate.edu

Cactus-inspired skin gives

electric vehicles a spike

Engineers work out

how to boil water?

JUNE - JULY 2016 |

POWER EQUIPMENT AUSTRALASIA

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