Future Cars Menu
Methanol Fuel Cell
The most common type of methanol fuel cell is the direct-methanol fuel cell (DMFC). These are a proton-exchange fuel cell similar to the more well known hydrogen fuel cells, but using methanol as the fuel rather than H2.
Pros and Cons
The main advantage that DMFCs have over hydrogen is that methanol is easier to transport and methanol does not require complex steam reforming - which H2 derived from fossil fuels does.
The main disadvantage to methanol fuel cells are their low efficiency in comparison to other fuel cell types. While DMFCs may be used in automotive, they are mainly being developed for smaller portable applications where power density is more important.
How DMFC Works
A direct-methanol fuel cell works in a way similar to other direct-method FCs. Methanol is sent into the cell where it meets an anode. negative hydrogen is attracted to the positive cathode (and its oxygen, brought in from ambient air) on the other side of a proton exchange membrane. In passing through that membrane, an electron is sent through a circuit before the hydrogen combines with oxygen to make water (H2O). This water is exhausted to the atmosphere as the cell's only emission.
By controlling how many cells are connected to one another in a group (series), the amount of voltage and amperage output can be controlled.
Other Types of Methanol Fuel Cells
Other methanol fuel cells often cited are indirect-methanol fuel cells (IMFCs). These are primarily experimental as they are very low efficiency and have many issues to overcome before being useful as an energy transfer device. They also emit CO2 because of their problems in losing methanol that doesn't react in a controlled way.
Where DMFCs are Used
Most DMFCs are still experimental, but they are useful for small, low-power vehicle applications such as fork lifts, pallet jacks, and also in some consumer goods. The military is also considering DMFCs as a solution to long-term power storage for individual and small unit gadgetry and electronics.
This site follows the emergence, application and development of transportation innovation. Reference to manufacturers, makes and models, and other automotive-related businesses are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by FutureCars.com.