Fuel cells seem like an ideal energy source—they’re clean, efficient, silent and don’t require transmission lines. The hitch? They can be costly. Now scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) hope to change that equation by building a sophisticated cost model that will take into account the total cost of ownership.
Berkeley Lab researchers have designed a new composite material for hydrogen storage consisting of nanoparticles of magnesium metal sprinkled through a polymer related to Plexiglas that rapidly absorbs and releases hydrogen at modest temperatures without oxidizing the metal after cycling. This achievement is a major breakthrough in materials design for hydrogen storage, batteries and fuel cells.
Watching the components of a fuel cell work together under heat and pressure is a challenge, because the best technique, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), can only be used in a vacuum—until now, that is. A working solid oxide electrochemical device operating at 750 degrees Celsius has been studied in detail for the first time by scientists working at the Advanced Light Source, using a new ambient pressure XPS system invented at Berkeley Lab.