RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
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
featured in science
paper shows that
in hot conditions,
which has a water
efficiency of fuel
cells by a factor
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
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.
hile it may seem to some
like reinventing the wheel,
State University have delivered a new
way to boil and control boiling bubble
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
“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.
OSU College of Engineeringoregonstate.edu
Cactus-inspired skin gives
electric vehicles a spike
Engineers work out
how to boil water?
JUNE - JULY 2016 |
POWER EQUIPMENT AUSTRALASIA