Kerala University researches develop fuel from air and seawater

An eco-friendly fuel cell that generates power mainly using air and seawater- that’s what researchers at the University of Kerala have devised.

Details of the ‘Air-breathing Magnesium – Copper / Cupric Oxide Fuel Cell’ has appeared in the peer-reviewed international publication ‘Journal of Engineering and Applied Science’ recently.

The research was carried out by R Jayakrishnan, Associate Professor, Department of Physics, Kerala University, and his students.

The technology used is expected to be disruptive as Lithium-ion batteries which are the present market leaders are set to be overtaken by Magnesium-based fuel cells that deliver higher power output.

The KU researchers’ fuel cell is billed as environmentally clean as it breathes air and uses saline water as the fuel. The cell produces only electricity and heat during its operation and emits water.

At present, researchers over the world are focused on developing fuel cells that use the chemical energy of hydrogen to produce electricity cleanly and efficiently.

“A semiconducting layer of Cupric Oxide grown over Copper substrate was used in a Magnesium- Sodium Chloride based fuel cell. We used a commercial toy car to test a prototype fuel cell and the results were very encouraging,” said Jayakrishnan.

The researcher has been working on the idea of using salt water as fuel since 2020. The expensive chemical element Platinum is used for air cathode systems around the world, whereas in the work led by Jayakrishnan, semiconductor material has been used for the purpose, thereby making the cell cost effective.

“A fuel cell of size 3 cm× 1.5 cm × 1 cm which was prototyped delivered a voltage of 0.7 V and a current of 0.35 A for 10 minutes. We know that we have to go a long way to go before we can commercialize the technology,” Jayakrishnan said. However, if the research receives adequate funding, Jayakrishnan believes his team could come up with a competitive technology within a short period.

Tags: Air, Fuel, Kerala University, Seawatwer
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