LSU Improves Fuel Cell Technology, Draws Interest from General Motors, Toyota

January 20, 2021

Toward a Future of Clean, Green Travel

The palm-sized membrane might look modest, but it could power your laptop for a few hours. And together with thousands of other membranes just like it in a fuel cell stack, it could soon take you to Portland or Paris, with no carbon emissions at all.

Fuel cell electric vehicles can be a powerful and equally green alternative to battery-driven electric vehicles—especially when those vehicles are large and have to go far, and the batteries required would get too big and heavy to be practical, such as in trucks and commercial airliners.

Christopher Arges in the LSU Cain Department of Chemical Engineering has been able to increase energy densities in fuel cells by coming up with better materials through artificial-intelligence-guided research. Toyota has since visited his lab, and Arges just received an invitation from General Motors.

Louisiana is poised to lead in fuel cell technologies (powered by hydrogen), with established resources and expertise in zero-carbon and low-carbon chemical fuel manufacturing. Arges’s work points to several ways the state can make efficient use of its vast natural gas resources.

The Road of Tomorrow

LSU researchers are working on improving both fuel cell and battery technologies for electric vehicles. While the fuel for those vehicles in our current energy infrastructure in Louisiana mostly comes from natural gas, a fossil fuel (80% for hydrogen for fuel cells; 70% for electricity for batteries), carbon dioxide emissions are about half compared to gasoline. In a future where hydrogen and electricity come from renewable sources, those emissions would be reduced to about one-fifth to one-tenth of what they are today.

– Elsa Hahne / LSU

Fuel cell membrane

“I see several potential benefits in Chris’s work [at LSU]. I like his approach to performance and appreciate that he’s looking at different materials to meet specific needs.”

- Craig Gittleman, engineering group manager for fuel cell materials and analysis at General Motors