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Toys Technology

Building Fuel Cells from Kits? 25 25

ItsMr.Data asks: "I am looking for a model fuel cell. After checking many web sites, and this one seems to have the best selection. I am wondering if, due to the high cost of the kits, any Slashdot readers have ever built their own fuel cells. I would also like to know if any readers have found any good resellers of kits and supplies."
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Building Fuel Cells from Kits?

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  • by mleczko (628758) on Saturday January 24, 2004 @07:03AM (#8074142)
    We did some experiments with a fuel cell from Heliocentris []. The fuel cell itself was pretty cool. (We had the one with 20 W max. power) Problem is that the prices are pretty hefty and you usually get the fuel cell only, so you have to come up with some way to supply hydrogen etc. Playing with hydrogen also is not a thing I would try at home. Besides, I'm not sure they sell to end-customers. But contacting them may be worth a try... Good luck!
  • by fredjflintstone (720631) on Saturday January 24, 2004 @09:10AM (#8074468) uel+cell%22+kit&btnG=Search+Froogle Starting at $99.99, and in-stock at $140, there are reversible fuel-cell kit cars.
  • by mOoZik (698544) on Saturday January 24, 2004 @04:57PM (#8076806) Homepage
    Do you have proof of this? It sounds like complete bunk to me.

  • by ColaMan (37550) on Saturday January 24, 2004 @07:42PM (#8077771) Homepage Journal
    If there is any quantity of platinum in those fuel cells, then yes the parent poster is right.
    For example, the platinum (99.9% pure) for crucibles that we use normally costs about USD650-700/ounce. Because of this, we supply them our old crucibles and scrap platinum and they melt them down and re-refine them.
  • Homebrew? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cr0sh (43134) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @02:16AM (#8079589) Homepage
    Something you may want to consider is the possibilty of homebrewing your own fuel cell. I think such a thing is entirely possible using off-the-shelf materials, provided one knows what to look for.

    For this homebrew effort, I personally think that the "sacraficial anode" type of fuel cell is one that could be done most easily. In these types of fuel cells, a metal anode is decomposed in an electrolyte solution, and it is this decomposition that is used to convey the charges, thus creating the voltage potential. First, take a look at this link []. This is from the fuel cell store website which was mentioned by the submitter. This link show a product that the store carries which is a sacraficial anode fuel cell. The anode in this case is magnesium-based, the electrolyte is salt water. The cathode is a so-called "diffusion cathode", which performs an oxygen-interface with the surrounding air, via a semi-permeable membrane. This membrane is such that oxygen is allowed in, but the salt water inside stays inside.

    Now, this company that supplies this cell to the fuel-cell store gives a good explanation of what is going on. However, it is different from what I remember. I remember that they used to sell a different such fuel cell - one in which the sacraficial anode was alluminium, not magnesium. I can't remember what the chemical reaction was, but it was nearly identical to what goes on with the magnesium based cell. Seeing this, I realized that such a homebrew cell might be possible.

    The question is, what to use for materials? Here's the answer I have come up with:

    1. Get a piece of PVC pipe with an end cap. Drill a bunch of holes in it, in a pattern of some sort. The more holes, the better, but make sure it is left structurally sound. Install the end cap.

    2. Construct a cardboard tube such that its diameter is approximately 1-2mm less than the inside diameter of the PVC pipe.

    3. Around this cardboard tube wrap a single layer of stainless steel mesh cloth. Around this wrap a single layer of polyethylene or polypropylene plastic.

    4. Slide this inside the PVC pipe. This is your diffusion cathode.

    5. In the center of another end cap, attach an alluminium rod. This is your anode.

    6. Fill the pipe with a mostly saturated-salt water solution. Insert alluminium rod and cap. The rod should not touch the sides, but instead should hang down the middle of the pipe. Keep the pipe vertical, leave room for air circulation.

    7. Profit?

    Now, I don't know if this will work. I have not tried it. But I think somewhere in it is gem of truth on how a homebrew fuel cell could be made. The hardest (and most expensive) portion of a fuel cell is the membrane. I think something like cling wrap or plastic freezer could supply the membrane - some kind of plastic that "breaths", and lets air through.

    So, could a homebrew fuel cell be made? Try it, and see!

  • by fireshipjohn (20951) * on Sunday January 25, 2004 @12:52PM (#8081582) Homepage
    Try this....

    looks interesting.... []

  • by fireshipjohn (20951) * on Sunday January 25, 2004 @01:17PM (#8081730) Homepage
    Or even more articles.

    Hydrogen gets complicated!

    Hydrogen articles []
  • OSFCP (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ferralis (736358) on Monday January 26, 2004 @11:16AM (#8087807) Homepage Journal
    Open Source Fuel Cell Project, anyone? If the talent and expertise of /. could be harnessed, maybe we could do some real good rather than just virtual good? It is my firm belief that the we still need the energy breakthrough to accompany the communications revolution of the last couple of decades... and that cheaper, cleaner energy will be the key to higher standards of living, just as it has throughout history. We've (largely) tackled food supply and shelter (at least we have the ability to do so). Communications tech is getting downright cheap... why not focus on energy- and make certain its available to anyone, anywhere without paying steep licensing costs.

    The range of materials available to the average citizen of a first-world country is incredible. Good old-fashioned geek ingenuity and horseback engineering may not create the most efficient fuel cells-- but they may be the most accessible and will almost certainly be the cheapest and most ingenious.

This is clearly another case of too many mad scientists, and not enough hunchbacks.