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Fuel-cell breakthrough runs for years, not hours

Toshiba DMFC
Alternatives to methanol cells can now power whole buildings

As the days of oil and coal draw to a close, developments in renewable energies are coming thick and fast, with the latest being a powerhouse of a fuel cell that has the potential to supply electricity for tens of thousands of hours at a time.

The so-called Solid-Oxide fuel cell comes from the Energy and Environmental Systems Laboratories of NTT, a Japanese telecoms company we've come across before.

Scale the key

Residing in the 1-kilowatt class, the new cell is for an office or small factory, rather than a house, but could be developed in the domestic direction if needed.

The material inside the new cell is a lanthanum-nickel-iron oxide compound, which allows NTT to build it sufficiently large to deliver substantial quantities of energy.

Years of electricity

Older cells of this type relied on zirconium, a material that restricted cell size and capacity as it could not be scaled up.

If the device is ever commercialised – NTT has no plans yet – uptimes measured in years, rather than hours, have a clear appeal for an oil-free future.