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« Ethanol from Biodiesel Byproduct | Main | LED Lights Reduce Energy Consumption 48% in Cree Headquarters »

November 07, 2007



According to a commercial I saw on TV tonight, GM has a fuel cell car that works wonderfully and spits out clean delicious water that's safe enough for the children gathered around it to drink!

They neglected to mention where to get pure hydrogen to fill it up, that it cost $1mil to hand-build, and that it needs regular overhauls every 3000 miles to rebuild and clean the fuel cells.


There is an error in the "more" link at the end of the posted story. It links to the glycerin to ethanol article from the previous post, instead of more information on an ethanol-powered fuel cell.


Ethanol is the appropriate transport molecule of lots of hydrogen/electrons. Methane, Methanol, and Hydrogen are just to problematic.

Ethanol is easy to produce, store, transport. It is relativly not toxic. Accidental spills would be easily dispersed and wouldn't cause any problem to breathable air.

The issue is the fuel cell semi permieble reverse osmotic membrane.. When this issue is solved, high watt systems will be possible and affordable.


==Ethanol is the appropriate transport molecule of lots of hydrogen/electrons. Methane, Methanol, and Hydrogen are just to problematic.

Ethanol is easy to produce, store, transport. It is relativly not toxic. Accidental spills would be easily dispersed and wouldn't cause any problem to breathable air.==

Dude, there's only 1 carbon chain difference between methanol and ethanol.

Secondly why would we want the inefficiency of ethanol and fuel cells combined?

It's like getting the worse of both worlds.



Also if ethanol is so easy to store and transport, you must be crazy. It needs to be kept in evaporation-proof, water-proof storage containers. It can't use pipelines. It's run out of railway capacity, and general has to be hauled around in tanker trucks.

Furthermore, Hydrogen fuel cell catalysts are EASILY poisoned by carbon.

So mixing carbon and hydrogen for a fuel cell is a rather idiotic approach.

Dude, there's only 1 carbon chain difference between methanol and ethanol.
Which makes the difference between acetyldehyde and formaldehyde after it encounters alcohol dehydrogenase.  Do you think this is toxicologically insignificant?
Secondly why would we want the inefficiency of ethanol and fuel cells combined?
That's just incoherent.  Why would you want the inefficiency of an electric powerplant and a CF bulb combined?  Because it's one of the best ways to generate light; most of the other reasonable pathways are worse.  If you've got some feedstock that's best converted to ethanol (I'm not sure there are any, but for the sake of argument), a direct ethanol fuel cell may be the best way to get work out of it.

No great fan of biofuels but an ethanol fuel cell, if 50% efficient beats a E85 tuned internal combustion engine at optimistically 30% efficiency.


These fuels cells would be used in small portable applications like laptops.

Cellulosic ethanol is not that inefficient (an energy balance of anywhere between 10 and 20 to 1 / easily beats petrofuels). Using ethanol in fuel cells that are more efficient than either batteries and ICEs obviously makes sense.

-Methanol will never make it because it's way too toxic and has a low energy density.

-Hydrogen is dumb, inefficient, dirty, super costly and thus has no future anyways (maybe in 2050 or so).

DEFCs look quite promising over the medium term. But this is not for cars, this is for laptops and cell phones.


Grey Falcon - the poisoning issue is CO, not C (carbon). The electrocatalyst used in the study is Pt/Ru...the Ru alloying element increases the EC's CO tolerance thus making it suitable for MeOH or EtOH. That one extra C (and concomitant 2 H) in EtOH does alot...makes you drunk instead of blind when you ingest it. Doesn't gasoline have to be stored in evaporation & waterproof containers? C'mon man, its one thing to have an opinion but another to get your panties in a bunch and call something idiotic when you don't know what you are talking about.

Also to all - DEFC is a big improvement over DMFC but Ru is very expensive so the anode EC content will have to be optimized for commercialization. Aside fro that a big issue with all low temp fuel cells is at the cathode...reducing O2 to two O(2-) is a four electron reaction and kinetically slow at PEMFC/DMFC/DEFC operating temps (80-120C). This results in excessive degradation when trying to draw high current densities and subject to alot of work in the electrochemical community. The slow cathode kinetics even is a factor in PhosAcid Fuel Cells (UTC Power) which operate at 250C. So while direct use of EtOH fuel is a great step forward, the cathode side, and membrane's for that matter (cost, crossover) needs some advances too before polymer/proton-exchange based fuel cells fueled by any type of molecule become viable.


In terms of most hydrogen stored per carbon atom, methane is the one to beat. CH4. 'Nuff said.

But what about infrastructure?
-natural gas pipelines abound...

But what about having to store it under pressure? Its a gas so density is low.
-not so with ANG. Check this:

I'm not a fuel cell fan, btw. I'm pulling for the BEV

Did some back of the envelope calculations today on world oil reserves.

Canada, U.S, Mexico, Venezula, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Iran, and Iraq have combined claimed "proven" reserves totaling ~1 trillion barrels both conventional and unconventional.

World reserves: ~1 Trillion Barrels
Current consumption: ~85 million bpd
Time 'til we're out: 32 years

That's assuming that we recover everything in the ground, an unlikely proposition at best. 50% extraction is more realistic. Now we're at 16 years.

Anyone really believe that oil companies recruiting capital or OPEC quotas tell the truth about reserves? Say they exaggerate their reserves 2x. Now we're at 8 years.


Paul Dietz

It can't use pipelines.

Ethanol cannot be put into pipes? Who knew!

Maybe you meant there are no existing pure-ethanol pipelines, vs. existing gasoline pipelines.

Woodlands Traveler

Ethanol is very corrosive - this is why it cannot be transported in today's pipeline system and cars have to be specially equipped to use e85.


I'm a university student who is currently studying DEFC. Actually, I was a bit nervious with the comparision between alkaline and acid membrane used in the cell. May any expert here give me some ideas over this?



can solar panels collect heat from a candle?...the idea being to collect waste heat from small cogeneration plants

If u mix (copper, indium, gallium sulfide and selenium solar cell mix with trace pltinum and nickel can u gaet a direct heat resistor?

Dave Gallows

I think the idea here is that in comparison to the Direct Methanol Fuel Cells, that seem to be the rage amoungst fuel cell manufaturers as a solution for portable electronics, the DEFC is the preferred solution based on the fact that ethanol does not cause the same health concerns as the methanol. The drawback on DEFC's has always been their inefficiency in comparison to their DMFC counterparts. If indeed the reseachers at KIT have found a way to boost fuel cell performance, this is significant. The other issue with methanol is that it is highly water soluable. If we begin to introduce this stuff as a universal solution to our energy problems, we will create a very dire environmental problem.

Angel Cuevas

This all needs to be on TV.
I propose a "Modern Energy Channel".
We need to stop all this "hidding in
plain sight".

Tem Kuechle

After reading through the comments, I had to take a second look at the submit dates. The development of fuel cell technology is making it possible to use a multitude of fuel sources that will make it possible to maximize performance for specific applications. This is good because we will not be relying on a single source so the problem of scarcity is less of an issue. Also, if ethanol can be produced locally, like beer or wine or spirits in general, then why is there a need for pipelines and trucking in fuel? Also, when ICE engines are optimized for alcohol fuels then the performance and efficiency will improve. All these ideas of everybody needing to use the same fuel source are based more on convenience than practicality. The future will come and there will be solutions and better options.

run your car on water

as a country we need to move into this technology. thanks for the great read.


we need as many different energy systems as possible in my humble opinion and this is just a start

skid steers

I agree completely... this technology is incredible.

Fabio Green Fer

Powerplants on brazil produce ethanol from sugarcane. Is it possible DEFC replace Ethanol fuel for cars ? Anyone would know say me what are advantages do that now ? Im at college studying Sucroalcohol production.

I'd like create a miniature prototype from DEFC membrane how would cost it ? Do you know tell me a howto to make it ?


Direct Methanol Fuel Cell

Hey thank you for the potits very informative, we are waiting for such products to be launched.


Ethanol for fuel is the answer.
All arguments against originate from vested interest in fossil fuel and the smoke screen of Hydrogen used by the fossil fuel profiteers to delay the change over.
However it will need massive political and economic world change to allow an environmentally friendly human energy base to be established. It has no hope of coming about under capitalism. That is a contradiction.

Business Process Management tool,Australia

The issue is the fuel cell semi permieble reverse osmotic membrane............


When cheap oil is gone, ethanol technology will be the norm. Whether in the ICE or the DEFC the fuel of the future is at $2 per gallon for cellulosic ethanol now. When the bite at the pump reaches $5 for gasoline, ethanol refineries will be spaced locally to meet the demand. Just wait, it will Happen. At one time 40 bushels per acre was considered a good yeild, now 300 bu. corn is common, but not profitable. Give the farmers a market and they can power the world through plant growth.

coach wallets

Summer is the great season for all sports in the open air. People can go swimming and sightseeing. It is time for all things to grow up.

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