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Advances Made By Harvard Scientists Bring Methane Powered Laptops Closer To Reality

It could soon be possible to run a laptop or phone using a methane powered fuel cell thanks to advances made by researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

The new methane fuelled Micro Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) created by SEAS scientists could offer a cheaper and cleaner alternative to powering mobile devices.

SOFCs have been championed by researchers looking for an alternative to fossil fuels and batteries containing hard to dispose of chemicals, as the only waste they produce is water.

In the past SOFCs have required costly components made of platinum and have been powered by pure hydrogen, which is expensive and difficult to manufacture. They have also had very high running temperatures of about 800 - 1,000 degrees centigrade.

The new cell however runs off cheap-to-produce natural methane, operates at a temperature of around 500 degrees centigrade and has no platinum parts.

Lead researcher Shriram Ramanathan, an SOFC expert, said of the innovation: "Low temperature is a holy grail in this field. If you can realize high-performance solid-oxide fuel cells that operate in the 300–500°C range, you can use them in transportation vehicles and portable electronics, and with different types of fuels.”