Cheap Fuel Cells with Salt Water Electrolyte to Commercialise in Japan

30 Mar 2012

Magnesium Crystal Cluster Close-up (Source: Flickr/Paul’s Lab)

Japan’s Tohoku University has developed a magnesium powered cell that uses salt water as an electrolyte. Magnesium is an abundant and cost-effective resource, brine is obviously even more so. Magnesium has been considered before but has suffered from problems of being easily burned and being dissolved by its electrolyte; Tohoku University claim to have solved such issues by using flame retardant magnesium developed under a separate research project by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

The technology will be able to compete with conventional batteries in a number of applications, including for use in electric vehicles. Furukawa Battery Company is working with the University as a cooperative development partner in the battery manufacturing industry; it will commercialise the product within the year at a target price of half that of an equivalent lead–acid battery.

Tohoku University also hopes that its cell will find application in the UPS and emergency power niches – “It is now possible to install an inexpensive emergency power source at each house” commented project developer Professor Ohama.

The electrolyte and anode of metal air fuel cells (MAFC) require periodic replacement due to corrosion which occurs as the system generates hydrogen ions, and electricity. Therefore this technology differs from conventional fuel cells which can operate indefinitely as long as a source of fuel is available. 


References: The Hokkaido Shimbun, The Kahoku Shimpo and The Denki Shimbun via FCDIC

Image: Magnesium Crystal Cluster Close-up (Source: Flickr/Paul’s Lab)


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