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Comment Neat, but not New (Score 4, Informative) 125

These guys are working on a new SOFC catalyst that will allow them to run gasified coal at lower temperatures without running into problems with coking. The basic idea is to gasify coal and then use internal reforming (a standard benefit of SOFC technology) to reform the hydrocarbons into CO and H2 which can be used directly as fuels. The new part is that this new catalyst is capable of running at lower temperatures without seeing a buildup of carbon, generally this is a problem that is solved by higher temperatures/power densities (which causes faster degradation) or more steam injection (more water needed).

The problem itself was the entire goal of the SECA program in the US because there is so much coal, and this gets better efficiency than just burning it normally. However, it looks like funding is on the way out for these programs, fossil fuel guys don't like fuel cells and vice versa. Most of the big players, GE, Siemens, etc have already bailed.

Some companies that use similar technology: Versa Power (US & Canada), Bloom Energy (US), Staxera (GE), Ceres Power (UK), CFCL (AU) and others

Comment Light Plus Communication? (Score 1) 172

Much like everyone else my intial thoughts were just meh. I just got a 4-Sevens Preon 1 Revo and it is relatively mind blowing to carry around a 80 lumen light which is not much bigger than a AAA battery. And thus far I've really enjoyed the ability to easily switch between the mode. What else am I going to do with a flashlight.

But then I began to imagine the possibilities of a programmable light. Include sensor feedback, line of sight communication, integration with other devices (imagine an arduino hooked up to one of these!) and the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. I mean you could rig this thing up to a serial in/out system and create your own semaphore line. Or investigate ultra battery performance, or even just play around using it as a stun gun. Think of the possibilities....

Comment Re:Nope, not a fuel cell. Nothing is consumed (Score 1) 135

"A fuel cell basically "burns" (uses up) its reagent to make electricity directly."

Going to have to disagree with you here, a fuel cell is an electrochemical energy conversion device, which use a chemical reaction (in most cases a redox) to convert chemical bond energy to electrical energy. Generally this is run in one direction only, for instance hydrogen plus oxygen goes to water vapor and electricity. However, fuel cells by nature (not necessarily engineered for) are completely reversible. You can apply power and run electricity in and make hydrogen and oxygen (or whatever).

However, due to the various engineering factors (flow resistance, phase transformations, electrical resistance etc....) they aren't often used in reversible mode. The perk of a flow battery is that if is designed to be used in reversible mode, and its engineered to avoid a bunch of these problems. Essentially on the continuum between batteries and fuel cells it's closer about right in the middle.


NHS Should Stop Funding Homeopathy, Says Parliamentary Committee 507

An anonymous reader writes "Homeopathic remedies work no better than placebos, and so should no longer be paid for by the UK National Health Service, a committee of British members of parliament has concluded. In preparing its report, the committee, which scrutinizes the evidence behind government policies, took evidence from scientists and homeopaths, and reviewed numerous reports and scientific investigations into homeopathy. It found no evidence that such treatments work beyond providing a placebo effect." Updated 201025 19:40 GMT by timothy: This recommendation has some people up in arms.

Comment Waiting to see what's in their secret sauce (Score 5, Informative) 562

This interested me enough to actually register (finally). There is a bunch of really horrendous media coverage on Fuel Cells in general but it doesn't help that in the article they mix concepts from different types of fuel cells, different types of "green energy" and general marketing.

Fuel cells that chemically transform reactants via an electrochemical reaction to products and release bunch electric energy directly along the way. You can think of it just like a battery that you keep putting more chemicals into. All fuel cells transform hydrogen and other hydrocarbons into electric energy with a little heat, all of them, they're solid state energy conversion devices not magical boxes. The big thing about solid oxide fuel cells is that they run at ridiculously high temps (600-1000C) so their reaction kinetics are tremendously faster than other kinds of fuel cells, they can self reform various fuels (natural gas, diesel, JP8, and they are tolerant to most containments (except usually sulfur and chromium).
However, the high temperature comes with a price, their interconnects degrade extraordinarily fast, sealing is a problem because of huge thermal expansion mismatches, and finally at 1000 degrees materials stability is a big problem.

As far as what they mentioned in the article, the "inks" are just catalyst layers, every fuel cell manufacturer and university uses those, everyone has their secret sauce. The "beach" is probably YSZ, or yttrium stabilized zirconia, which is the standard. The metal interconnects are coated with some conductive interconnects, no one would think of using platinum interconnects, they use that for catalysts on PEM fuel cells, it's totally unneccesary for SOFCS.

And if you're wondering, I'm doing graduate work on SOFCs, so we see this marketed crap in our field all the time, hopefully Bloom Energy has solved some of those problems I mentioned.
Other companies to check out: CFCL, Ceres Power

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