Two Northeastern University researchers, Sanjeev Mukerjee and Qingying Jia, have received a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop technology to lower the cost of fuel for energy-efficient cars.
Fuel consumption is a cause of major concern, which has led to the development of fuel cells that are used to run fuel-efficient cars. Fuel cells are devices that convert the chemical energy of a fuel directly into electricity by electrochemical reactions. A fuel cell resembles a battery in many respects, but it can supply electrical energy over a much longer period of time. This is because a fuel cell is continuously supplied with fuel and air (or oxygen) from an external source. A fuel cell vehicle (FCV) is a type of electric vehicle which uses a fuel cell, instead of a battery. Most fuel cell vehicles are classified as zero-emissions vehicles that emit only water and heat as compared to the conventional vehicles that release a ton of pollutants through combustion of fuel and diesel.
Although highly beneficial to the environment, these fuel-efficient cars aren’t exactly affordable. Fuel cells for these vehicles currently use platinum to convert hydrogen and oxygen into water and energy. But platinum is expensive and scarce. Mukerjee and Jia want to use iron which, they say, is low-cost, plentiful, and better for the environment. They believe that this configuration can cut carbon emissions and reduce the cost of renewable energy vehicles.
“If a car running on fuel cells is more expensive than a regular car, then no one will buy it,” Jia said. He hopes that the team’s technology will help to reduce the United States’ dependence on gas, which he described as “a limited resource that’s subject to inflation.” “The United States must lead the world in transitioning away from fossil fuels to a zero-greenhouse emission future,” Mukerjee said. “As part of this project, we hope we can get rid of that dependence by using hydrogen and oxygen.”