Fuel cell developer nominated for European Inventor Award

Fuel cell developer nominated for European Inventor Award

June 9, 2012 0 By Bret Williams

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Criticism powers innovation in fuel cell industry

Hydrogen fuel cells are become quite popular. With this popularity comes heightened scrutiny, however, and many have begun to criticize the efficiency and affordability of conventional fuel cells. Though the energy systems have managed to gain favor with the auto industry, fuel cells have yet to win over the hearts of consumers. Though fuel cells have been targeted by criticism, they have not lost viability as an effective energy system. In fact, it has spurred the development of new, more efficient and affordable fuel cells.

Stefener favors methanol over hydrogen for fuel cells

Manfred Stefener, director and founder of SFC Smart Fuel Cell, has taken to developing lightweight fuel cell systems that can be used to power various types of electronics. These fuel cells do not make use of hydrogen gas like their conventional counterparts, however. Instead, they utilize methanol to generate electricity. Stefener became enamored with methanol in the 1990’s, when he discovered that the chemical had numerous advantages over hydrogen gas. Methanol is much denser than hydrogen, requiring less storage space, which can reduce the weight of a fuel cell energy system significantly.

Lightweight fuel cells becoming more popular

This particular feature of methanol has been key in the development of fuel cells that are up to 80% lighter than conventional counterparts. Stefener’s lightweight fuel cells have thus become popular energy systems for portable electronics and have even found a niche in the competitive sailing sector. His methanol fuel cells can be charged through the use of cartridges that contain liquid methanol. These cartridges are designed to be replaced every few months.

Stefener’s fuel cells may have a far-reaching impact on the industry

For his innovative technology, Stefener has become a nominee for the European Inventor Award from the European Patent Office. The organization will convene this month to issue the award to an individual that has produced promising technology. By replacing hydrogen in fuel cells with methanol, Stefener may be able to win the award and believes that his designs will have an impact on the fuel cell industry as a whole.