Summer 2000 techNotes

July 25, 2000

Maximizing miniature power producers - Clean, affordable and highly efficient solid oxide fuel cells on the market in 10 years - that is the goal of a new industry-government-university consortium led by two Department of Energy labs - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Energy Technology Laboratory. Called the Solid-State Energy Conversion Alliance, SECA's aim is to develop a fuel cell that meets the diverse power needs of multiple markets and runs on abundant fossil fuels, such as natural gas, gasoline and military fuels.

Members of SECA believe they can reduce fuel cell costs through mass production of a versatile, five-kilowatt fuel cell module. In the future, the module is envisioned to meet energy needs in a range of markets, including residential, military and transportation. Nearer-term applications include auxiliary power to operate heaters, air conditioners and other accessories in autos and semi trucks, and complex electronics on military equipment. Developers also foresee modules that are "stackable," so units can be combined to accommodate larger power needs.

DOE funding for the consortium is projected to be $350 million over the next 10 years.

Tags target inventory of Army weaponry - Inventory control can be a costly business, even for the U.S. Army. But it's getting easier and faster with a new radio-frequency tag developed at Pacific Northwest. Engineers at the laboratory have designed a system for the U.S. Army's Logistics Integration Agency that tracks an inventory of small arms while stored in armories or checked out and used in the field.

Pacific Northwest engineers designed these RF tags to be securely mounted inside an M-16 rifle's grip and to hold a rifle's serial number for identification. Inventory control personnel use an electronic device called an interrogator to communicate with each tag and read the serial number. The system relies on passive RF reflection to communicate.

The interrogator also can program new information, such as a rifle's location, back into the RF tag when the weapon is checked out.

With the tags, military personnel will be able to stand in a warehouse full of tagged M16s, inventory up to 50 weapons a second and quickly know which weapons are being stored and which may be missing or in use.

Chemistry stops chromium contamination - Chromium contaminated soil - they're carting it up and carrying it away as part of cleanup projects at government and industrial sites throughout the United States. But researchers at Pacific Northwest have found a way to convert it to a less hazardous form that can be left in place.

By injecting diluted hydrogen sulfide into the subsurface, a chemical reaction converts highly toxic hexavalent chromium to trivalent chromium, which occurs naturally in soils.

This chemical reduction of chromium causes the material to cling to soil particles and not migrate down to the water table. Without conversion, the toxic form of chromium moves quickly through soil into groundwater and possibly into rivers, where it can harm juvenile fish.

Early demonstration of the technology shows potential for large cost savings. Additional tests are planned at a DOE site that has extensive chromium contamination.

Energy efficiency at 'core' of home - Home, sweet, energy-efficient home could be the sign hanging inside a manufactured home built with foam core panels designed to reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as half. This summer, Pacific Northwest researchers will monitor the potential energy efficiency of this new manufactured home.

At the laboratory's urging, the manufactured home is the first constructed of structural insulated panels, or SIPs.

The panel's foam core better insulates and controls air leakage than traditional building materials and less lumber is used to build the homes.

Through DOE's Building America program, researchers will analyze and report the home's energy efficiency, affordability and structural integrity.
More information on RF tag research is available at

The home was built with technical support from DOE at Champion Enterprises' factory in Silverton, Ore. More information is available at

DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Related Fuel Cell Articles from Brightsurf:

INRS researchers develop a new membraneless fuel cell
The research team of INRS (Institut national de la recherche scientifique) professor Mohamed Mohamedi has designed a green membraneless fuel cell that uses oxygen from the air.

Researchers advance fuel cell technology
Washington State University researchers have made a key advance in solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) that could make the highly energy-efficient and low-polluting technology a more viable alternative to gasoline combustion engines for powering cars.

Niobium used as catalyst in fuel cell
Glycerol fuel cell can replace batteries in cell phones and laptops, and could be used in future to run electric cars and supply power to homes.

Inside the fuel cell -- Imaging method promises industrial insight
Hydrogen-containing substances are important for many industries, but scientists have struggled to obtain detailed images to understand the element's behavior.

Selenium anchors could improve durability of platinum fuel cell catalysts
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a new platinum-based catalytic system that is far more durable than traditional commercial systems and has a potentially longer lifespan.

Activity of fuel cell catalysts doubled
An interdisciplinary research team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has built platinum nanoparticles for catalysis in fuel cells: The new size-optimized catalysts are twice as good as the best process commercially available today.

More flexible nanomaterials can make fuel cell cars cheaper
A new method of increasing the reactivity of ultrathin nanosheets, just a few atoms thick, can someday make fuel cells for hydrogen cars cheaper, finds a new Johns Hopkins study.

Developed self-controlling 'smart' fuel cell electrode material
A research team led by Professor Kang Taek Lee in the Department of Energy Science and Engineering developed electrode material for a new form of high-performance solid oxide fuel cell.

Finally, a robust fuel cell that runs on methane at practical temperatures
Either exorbitantly expensive fuel or insanely hot temperatures have made fuel cells a boutique proposition, but now there's one that runs on cheap methane and at much lower temperatures.

New fuel cell concept brings biological design to better electricity generation
Fuel cells have long been viewed as a promising power source.

Read More: Fuel Cell News and Fuel Cell Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to