[RELATED_ARTICLE]If there’s one problem with the current generation of laptops, it’s their battery life. And one of the most likely ways to overcome this is by using fuel cells. In addition to providing more power, these cells also have the added benefit of being environmentally friendly, as they utilize methane gas. Traditionally these types of cells have been both too expensive and too hot to be practical, but scientists at Harvard say that may soon change.
According to Shriram Ramanathan, the lead researcher behind the project at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, solid-oxide fuel cells (or SOFCs) may soon be the most common form of power for portable devices. The team has developed a thin SOFC that eschews using platinum, making it both a cheaper and more reliable alternative. This only leaves the high temperature as an issue.
“Low temperature is a holy grail in this field,” Ramanathan told Science Daily. “If you can realize high-performance solid-oxide fuel cells that operate in the 300-500°C range, you can use them in transportation vehicles and portable electronics, and with different types of fuels.”
Research is ongoing, and Ramanathan says that one of the main goals is to find “affordable, earth-abundant materials that can help lower the operating temperature even further.”
Copyright © 2010 Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc.