Can Hydrogen Fuel Cells Really Power Electronics?

Written by Judith Ceja
Jan 27, 2011 at 12:39 AM

The CEO of SiGNa Chemistry, Michael Lefenfeld, believes that hydrogen fuel cells can be a viable power source for items such as laptops, cell phones, and even electric bicycles. His company has revealed an exciting new development in hydrogen fuel cell technology. The company, which is headquartered in New York and only has about 20 employees, developed a new chemical process which utilizes water and a compound called sodium silicide to generate hydrogen

Picture source: monty.metzger

Sodium silicide is a powder produced by combining sodium metal with silicon powder. The powder is then stored in a disposable canister with water. The reaction between the water and the sodium silicide powder, produces the hydrogen. Any type of water can be used to create the reaction including sea water or even water that is polluted. This is not the case with other generation processes.

The discovery could also resolve two major road blocks in hydrogen fuel cell technology: real-time hydrogen generation and storage. Storage of hydrogen is problematic because it needs to be stored under high pressure. Also, many of the current technologies do not allow for shut off capabilities once 30-40% of the fuel has been utilized. This means the fuel cell cannot stop producing power until all the fuel has been exhausted.

SiGNa Chemistry’s new process appears to have resolved many of the problems with current fuel cell technology. This process allows hydrogen to be generated in real-time instead of having to refuel the cell after each use. The company has also found a way to store the hydrogen at lower pressure levels. Additionally, the new process also produces fuel cells which can be started or stopped quickly without exhausting all the power in the fuel cell.

Hydrogen fuel cells offer many benefits over alkaline and lithium batteries. For example, lithium batteries in computers have overheating problems which would not exist with fuel cells. Furthermore, fuel cells could be disposed of in your regular trash or even recycled, unlike batteries which contain toxins and have special rules for disposal. SiGNa maintains that fuel cells also provide an economic alternative to alkaline and lithium batteries. The company claims that sodium silicide fuel cells, when produced in a large enough volume, are ten times less expensive than alkaline batteries and six times less expensive than disposable lithium batteries.

Producing any alternative energy source on a large scale to keep production costs down is a problem that plagues all green technologies. So using hydrogen fuel cells to power consumer electronics may seem like a remote possibility. The reality is, however, there are cell phone chargers currently on the market that use this technology. Furthermore, computer manufacturers are quite interested in utilizing fuel cells on a large scale in laptops to provide longer battery life which is a huge selling point with consumers. In the near future, we will be able to own laptops that are essentially powered by water.

Last Updated ( Feb 28, 2011 at 02:28 PM )

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