Policy / Systems / Technology

December 25, 2017


Tokyo Institute of Technology Successfully Visualizes Water Produced inside Fuel Cells

Keywords: Environmental Technology 

Image by ZEISS Microscopy Some Rights Reserved.

Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced on October 5, 2017, that as part of a NEDO project, Tokyo Tech has successfully developed the world's first technology capable of visualizing, in real-time and in high resolution, the behaviors of the water produced inside operating fuel cells. The technology is expected to accelerate technology development that will contribute to improvements in fuel cells that will enable higher performance and better durability.

Under NEDO's project to solve technological issues in polymer electrolyte fuel cells for automobiles, a team led by Professor Shuichiro Hirai at Tokyo Tech has been attempting to use X-rays to visualize the water produced inside operating fuel cells. Finding a way to accurately ascertain the behavior of water in fuel cells has been critical in order to improve the performance of fuel cells. Until now, direct observation has been impossible, and assessments have been indirectly inferred on the basis of power generation performance.

The team combined a technology for emitting soft x-rays in parallel and a CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) element sensor which converts light into an electrical signal, modified the fuel cells to be observed, and as a result, succeeded in obtaining high-resolution visual images using a device compact enough to be installed in a laboratory.

Following the success of this technology for observing the behavior of water produced in fuel cells with micron-level accuracy, Tokyo Tech will begin collaborating with other companies to accelerate improvements in fuel cells to achieve higher performance, better durability and lower cost.