Helicopters Powered By Fuel Cells

FILED UNDER: Technology

Researchers have developed a fuel cell that is so light it can power a small unmanned helicopter to perform missions such as reconnaissance, traffic monitoring or even help with search and rescue operations.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin has developed the cell in partnership with colleagues at the Technical University of Berlin.

Each fuel cell unit has an output of 12 watts and weighs only 30 grams. This delivers 400 watts per kilogram which has previously been achieved only in systems that weigh several hundreds of grams. It measures 2 x 5 x 4 centimetres – a little bigger than a matchbox.

Initially they will power helicopters measuring only 20cm to keep the weight to a minimum and increase their range.

The cells are cooled by wind generated from the helicopter’s rotor blades and weight is reduced by using plastic spacers instead of metal plates between the planer fuels cells.

The researchers had to develop a method of securing a supply of hydrogen for the cells. A pressure tank designed to hold hydrogen is very heavy so obviously would not work with this application.

Using solid sodium borohydride, the team was able to build a tiny reactor that produces hydrogen when injected with water.

The applications beyond this project are endless. The fuel cell could be used to recharge or power electrical gadgets without the need for electricity. My question is, how long before we see them in laptops to create a truly wireless computer?

The photo above shows the stack of fuel cells separated by plastic spacers.


Photo Credit:
Fraunhofer IZM © 6/2008 Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Comments (One Response):

Thank you for sharing that. Well written

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