Fuel cells promise to be the environmentally-friendly power source of the future, but some types run too hot to be practical. New research may have a solution.
Astronauts have been using them for power aboard spacecraft since the 1960s. Soon, perhaps, they'll be just as common on Earth - powering cars, trucks, laptop computers and cell phones.
They're called fuel cells.
By combining hydrogen fuel with oxygen, fuel cells can produce plenty of electric power while emitting only pure water as exhaust. They're so clean that astronauts actually drink the water produced by fuel cells on the space shuttle.
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In recent years the interest in bringing this environmentally friendly technology to market has become intense. But there are problems: You can't "fill 'er up" with hydrogen at most corner gas stations. And fuel cell-based cars and computers are still relatively expensive. These obstacles have relegated fuel cells to a small number of demo vehicles and some specialty uses, such as power aboard the space shuttle and back-up power