NEW HIGH TECNOLOGY! Kalle Heiska science journalist
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27.06.2003

VTT awaiting marketization of its fuel cell technology
Fuel cells can be made into a source of power for a consumer product

The Finnish research on fuel cell technology is so far advanced that it would now be worthwhile to commence production as a source of power on a small scale – for example to replace batteries. In the future portable IT equipment, domestic appliances, motors and for example entertainment devices could obtain the energy they need from totally recyclable, lightweight and safe fuel cells.

Lars Gädda
The fuel cells appear as membranes between the black plates. On a small scale the model is appropriate for a mobile phone or PC battery.
High resolution image
Photo: VTT
The fuel cell converts the hydrogen into energy in such a way that the only emission is water. When methane is used the emission also includes carbon dioxide. The share of other emissions, such as nitrous oxides, is extremely low. VTT has built prototypes with fuel cells of one kW. This is sufficient, for example, to move with a light vehicle in which the battery is powered by the fuel cell. For the fuel cell to become more widely used the costs of manufacturing and materials will need to be cheaper.

The most recent advantage with the fuel cell developed by VTT is that it is now possible to replace the formerly required graphite with reasonably priced composite material. The new fuel cell is easier to manufacture and its recyclability is superior. The VTT fuel cell also recovers energy from the water-cooling.

The hydrogen required for the fuel cell is currently a by-product of industry, and it is already being bottled. Small quantities appropriate of the consumer's needs are already available thus the same fuel cell can be used for a long time.

In European fuel cell development the aim is to keep up with the USA and Japan. VTT, Helsinki University of Technology (HUT), Åbo Akademi University and enterprises have developed technology in the field on funding from VTT, HUT and Tekes.

"When the fuel cell is manufactured almost entirely of technical plastic it is ideal: lightweight and safe. Manufacturing it this way is moreover fast and inexpensive. There is already ample expertise in the field in Finland. What we now need is a company to marketize fuel cell expertise and make it into profitable business. This needs to be done fast, because the development and commercialisation of fuel cells elsewhere are already well advanced. In Finland we haven't even begun to commercialise fuel cell expertise," says Tomi Heiskanen, managing director of Optatech Oy.

Further information:


Photo: Matti Lindfors

 
VTT Processes
Matti Valkiainen, Senior Research Scientist
tel. +358 9 456 6380, mob. +358 40 764 2480
matti.valkiainen@vtt.fi
Optatech Oy
Tomi Heiskanen, managing director
tel. +358 9 525 9310, mob. +358 400 491 568
tomi.heiskanen@optatech.fi

Feel free to use all news. Photographs copyright Kalle Heiska.
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