Fuel Cells, Carbonation, and Love

What could possibly link these three subjects, you rightly ask?

Easy. On Saint Valentine’s Day the Chemical Heritage Foundation held a monthly meeting of the Joseph Priestley Society (he, the inventor of carbonating aqueous solutions) that featured a talk entitled “Fuel Cells on the Road to Commercialization.” Voilà!

Fuel cells are hot, both figuratively and literally. On the literal side, if you react hydrogen and oxygen, you get water plus heat. And it’s the heat that is handy because it can be used to power many imaginable (and potentially unimaginable) purposes.

One usually thinks automobiles when the term fuel cell comes up. But at the symposium, all variety of planes, trains, and boats were under consideration, as well as everything from cell phones, to general-purpose batteries, to emergency electricity devices, to power generation in the field.

And best of all, fuel cells are quiet, non-polluting, reliable, and carbon free. The only nagging limitation is that the technology is not quite ready for prime time or to reliably address our voracious appetite for energy.

Hopeful signs abound, however, for rapid emergence of commercial applications that will use the full potential of this amazingly promising technology. And the burgeoning field even offers a great example of a university-industry collaboration that really works.

The unsurprisingly named Research Center for Fuel Cells is housed at the University of South Carolina and headed by John Van Zee, a chemical engineering professor. Worth a look, especially if you are struggling for guidance on how to form such partnerships and encourage them to flourish.

Posted In: Technology

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