When the living gets tough- look to nature for it always has answers.
Fuel cells heat up too often. Cactus can solve this problem in a simple way. The fuel-cell technology is the most efficient technology to date for power generation. It doesn’t produce harmful gases which damage the ozone layer and cause global warming.
The technology is both small and efficient. From desalination of plants to electric cars- you name it, this thin plastic membrane will enhance the performance of fuel cells by keeping them cool.
The partnership between the CSIRO, Australia’s peak science body, and Korea’s Hanyang University, resulted in this advancement. The major problem fuel cells faced was heating up. On continuous running- the fuel cells ended up being roasted and decreased in efficiency. The problem is solved through this tiny membrane which cools down fuel cells. The problem is solved by proton-exchange membrane fuel cells which generate energy by mixing gases like oxygen and hydrogen which are totally harmless.
Membranes are usually not heat-resistant and can crystallise or lose their original state if the temperature is increased or decreased.
The can be solved by adding a substance called humidifier which not only provides moisture to membrane but also adds to its volume and makes it more tough. This membrane acts like cactus and holds water inside it.
“Cactus actually have a round hole, called a stomata, [on their surface],” Aaron Thornton, CSIRO researcher and the report’s co-author explained, “that’s responsible for opening them up in the cool of the night to absorb water, and closing up in the dry hot day.”
The mechanism is two-way as the membrane is two layered. The inner portion holds water and keeps it inside while the outer layer repels it. The outer layer also comprises of several small holes.
“This skin cracks and opens up when there is moisture available — it basically self-humidifies,” Thornton explained. “It then closes back up in low-humidity environments to retain the water.”
This technology can have variety of uses and can be used to obtain clean and pure water from sea. At the current stage this project is not very cost-effective as the reaction is catalysed by platinum which is very expensive.
However, if the costs are managed – success is guaranteed!