One of the biggest tech stories at this year's LA Auto Show was the fuel cell car. Toyota led the way by launching the Mirai
, and Volkswagen slid a fuel cell powertrain into the Golf SportWagen
. Audi showed a sportier, more luxurious side to fuel cells in the A7 Sportback h-tron quattro. Ingolstadt calls it the "first performance fuel cell vehicle."
Researchers at the Australian National University are one step closer to creating an artificial photosynthesis system after replicating one of its crucial steps. The development may lead to an abundant source of hydrogen, a cheap and clean fuel that could replace all petroleum products.
On the night before its official launch, Toyota President Akio Toyoda announced that the company's fuel cell vehicle (FCV)
will be called the "Mirai." The name, which means "future" in Japanese, marks what the car maker sees as a turning point in automotive technology with the development of both a hydrogen-powered vehicle
and an expanded hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
With the airline industry's commitment to halve 2005 CO2 emission levels by 2050 prompting Airbus
to accelerate the development of alternative jet fuels, Airbus is now getting behind a project to examine the potential for using hydrogen fuel cells on commercial airliners – not to power the jet engines, but to replace the Auxiliary Power Units (APUs).
Hydrogen may hold promise as an alternative to fossil fuels, but there's still a huge petrol-producing infrastructure in place, and not many service stations offer hydrogen refills yet. That's why some scientists are exploring a bridging technology known as the integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) process, for converting fossil fuels into
hydrogen. Along with hydrogen, though, carbon dioxide is also a byproduct of the IGCC process, which must be dealt with. Fortunately, scientists from the University of Liverpool have developed a polymer that soaks up that CO2 for use in other applications.
By-products are common to most industries. Some are harmless, some dangerous and others useless. Others are simply under-utilized. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is using hydrogen generated as a by-product of the sodium chlorate production process in its pilot-scale power plant to produce electricity.
Hydrogen fueled vehicles, such as Toyota's FCV
and Hyundai's Tuscon Fuel Cell
, face a chicken or egg predicament: consumers are rightfully hesitant to invest in such vehicles if they don't have a convenient way to refuel them, and energy companies don't want to cough up dollars for costly infrastructure without significant numbers of such vehicles on the road. But a study by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories says that more existing gas stations in California could readily integrate hydrogen fuel than previously thought.
In preparation for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA)
radio telescope project set to start construction in 2018, the CSIRO’s recently unveiled Australia SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope array has been used to demonstrate and prove the technology involved. With the images it has captured so far, it has also shown its ability to operate as a fully-fledged radio telescope in its own right.
The hydrogen economy
sounds great, and has ever since it was first proposed in the 1970s. The tricky bit is how to get there, because without the necessary infrastructure, a fuel cell car that runs on hydrogen is little more than a conversation piece. As Hyundai delivers its first Tucson Fuel Cell CUV to its new lessee, Timothy Bush, the South Korean carmaker unveiled its plan to jump-start the hydrogen car economy by giving the fuel away to its customers.
Trondheim in Norway is set to become the stage for some of the most cutting-edge experiments by artists who have turned their focus to the implications of science and technology. Called Meta.Morf – Lost in Transition
, the biennale for art and technology is spread across a 30-day program throughout May and includes the work of more than 70 international artists, architects, musicians, writers and researchers from 15 countries.