Team doctors and Rod Stevens BERGENS Wasylishen, the chemistry department of the University of Alberta, produced the raw images of the inside of a fuel cell in operation. The objective of this study was to understand how water behaves in the interior of a fuel cell operating at the hydrogen. Their preliminary discoveries
were published in the Journal of The American Chemistry Society.
They should allow to improve the design of fuel cells and, accordingly, their effectiveness. Indeed, while significant avancees have already been made in the field of fuel cells, with bus drivers and programs of the Food once cars including hydrogen, the technology still presents some imperfections. The generation of electricity from the hydrogen is possible through a relatively simple chemical reaction. In the stack the hydrogen and oxygen react to form water. It is this water production which raises problem. When water is present in too large amount in the cell, it blocks the arrivals of hydrogen and oxygen; when not sufficiently present, the movement of protons from the hydrogen is not properly ensured and the reaction can take place.
To better apprehend this delicate balance, the researchers had the idea of using a MRI imaging. Although it is very delicate to observe the operation of the battery in the magnetic field induced by the MRI, they managed to get pictures of how the efficiency of the battery increases or decreases depending on the amount of water present. The idea now is to build a smaller battery that will give a clearer picture of the interior of a fuel cell in operation. The team has already been contactee by Ballard Power Systems, the company's Vancouver battery field leader has fuel.
- The U of A Department of Chemistry website: http://www.chem.ualberta.ca/
- Journal of American Chemistry Society online:
- The Ballard Power Systems website: http://www.ballard.com/
Sources: University of Alberta Express news, 16 / 11 / 2004
Editor: Delphine Dupre VANCOUVER,