Fuel cells may be a practical reality, but there aren’t many choices for the fuel itself — you usually have to rely on hydrogen, which dictates where and how those cells work. The University of Utah may have a clever alternative in store, however. Its researchers have developed a cell that runs on JP-8, a jet fuel used by American warplanes in harsh climates. The cell uses enzymes to turn propellant into electricity without requiring lots of heat or a perfectly clean mixture; it works at room temperatures even when there’s sulfur in the mix, making it far more useful than previous attempts at JP-8 cells.
The technology should be useful for powering mobile devices of all kinds, including cars. It may not necessarily find its way into the same places as hydrogen cells, mind you. Vehicle makers frequently use hydrogen because they’re trying to avoid petroleum products; jet fuel isn’t exactly going to help. Once scientists refine the cells, you’re more likely to see them in electronics that would benefit from JP-8’s traits, such as rugged laptops that need to survive extreme temperatures. Even so, you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re eventually running your gadgets on the same chemicals that power bombers and fighters.
[Image credit: AP Photo/US Air Force, Shawn Nickel]
Source: University of Utah