MadSci Network: Engineering

Subject: What happens to the carbon in methanol when it is used in a fuel cell?

Date: Fri Jun 12 23:24:16 1998
Posted by Campbell Kelly
Grade level: other
School: N/A
City: Calgary State/Province: Alberta
Country: Canada
Area of science: Engineering
ID: 897711856.Eg

Daimler-Benz has demonstrated a vehicle powered by a fuel-cell which 
gets its hydrogen from methanol, via a "reformer". But methanol 
contains quite a lot of carbon. What happens to the carbon? Daimler 
and Ballard are remarkably silent about this...

The atomic weights in methanol add up like this: 

12 parts carbon
16 parts oxygen
4 parts hydrogen, for a total of 32.

So 12 parts in 32 (37.5%) of the weight of each liter of methanol is 
elemental carbon. 

Methanol has a specific gravity of approximately 0.8, so a 70 liter 
tank of methanol fuel contains 21 kg of carbon. If we assume this is 
converted to graphite, it would be a solid cube 32 cm on an edge. (A 
cubic foot of black sooty stuff, weighing about 45 lbs.)

Where does it go? If it still ends up in the atmosphere as CO2 (this 
is where the carbon in gasoline goes), what have we gained by using 
the fuell-cell technology?

Re: What happens to the carbon in methanol when it is used in a fuel cell?

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