direct methanol fuel cell
Principle of the direct methanol fuel cell. Image source: Sympowercocorp.
Most fuel cells are powered by hydrogen,
which can be fed to the fuel cell system directly or can be generated within
the fuel cell system by reforming hydrogen-rich fuels such as methanol, ethanol, and hydrocarbon fuels. Direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs), however, are powered by pure
methanol, which is mixed with steam and fed directly to the fuel cell anode.
Direct methanol fuel cells do not have many of the fuel storage problems typical of some fuel cells because methanol has a higher energy density than hydrogen – though less than gasoline or diesel fuel. Methanol is also easier to transport and supply to the public using our current infrastructure because it is a liquid, like gasoline.
Direct methanol fuel cell technology is relatively new compared with that of fuel cells powered by pure hydrogen, and DMFC research and development is roughly 3–4 years behind that for other fuel cell types.