Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Direct Carbon Fuel Cell

SRI Intl. are claiming a direct coal fuel cell device and presenting at the FC conference in Palm Springs next week (hattip Reddit although the link is mostly business waffle).
The Reddit link states that it uses no catalysts so my bollocks-detector is clanging away like a madman and i can't find any technical descriptions of how it would work (SRI webpage here). The main problems with a solid-as-fuel are two-fold:
  1. You can't clean up the feed stream. Coal has oodles of sulphur in it and sulphur will poision just about any cheap catalyst (noble metals are immune but they cost too much)
  2. The reaction rates are just too darn low. The diffusion of reactants in will be orders of magnitude slower than if the coal is gasified before use
It does mention a liquid fuel but how (can?) do you melt coal? Perhaps they are pulverising the coal into little bits and mixing with a non-reactive feed, but then, you'd still run into problem 2 and even worse due to the dilution of the feed.
Might be interesting, but i'm throwing this one in the snake-oil basket until some actual facts come out.

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