Mighty Mites

The fuel cell's first big market success may be alcohol-fed units small enough to power cellphones, laptops, and PDAs

8 min read

Leroy Ohlsen stared at a TV screen, engrossed. The college freshman was captivated not by the Superbowl or a Hollywood thriller, but rather by a Discovery Channel documentary showing a bus cruising city streets, powered by hydrogen fuel cells and emitting nothing worse than water vapor.

The experience was a watershed in his life. While he pursued a bachelor's degree in chemistry at the University of Washington (Seattle), he "dove into all the journals and read everything I possibly could on fuel cells—to understand them, especially the catalysis aspect, where platinum and ruthenium do the magic of busting up chemicals to generate electricity."

Keep reading... Show less

Stay ahead of the latest trends in technology. Become an IEEE member.

This article is for IEEE members only. Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Engineers Are Working on a Solar Microgrid to Outlast Lunar Nights

Future lunar bases will need power for mining and astronaut survival

4 min read
A rendering of a lunar base. In the foreground are rows of solar panels and behind them are two astronauts standing in front of a glass dome with plants inside.
P. Carril/ESA

The next time humans land on the moon, they intend to stay awhile. For the Artemis program, NASA and its collaborators want to build a sustained presence on the moon, which includes setting up a base where astronauts can live and work.

One of the crucial elements for a functioning lunar base is a power supply. Sandia National Laboratories, a research and development lab that specializes in building microgrids for military bases, is teaming up with NASA to design one that will work on the moon.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Trilobite-Inspired Camera Boasts Huge Depth of Field

New camera relies on “metalenses” that could be fabricated using a standard CMOS foundry

3 min read
Black and white image showing different white box shapes in rows

Scanning electron microscope image of the titanium oxide nanopillars that make up the metalens. The scale is 500 nanometers (nm).

NIST

Inspired by the eyes of extinct trilobites, researchers have created a miniature camera with a record-setting depth of field—the distance over which a camera can produce sharp images in a single photo. Their new study reveals that with the aid of artificial intelligence, their device can simultaneously image objects as near as 3 centimeters and as far away as 1.7 kilometers.

Five hundred million years ago, the oceans teemed with horseshoe-crab-like trilobites. Among the most successful of all early animals, these armored invertebrates lived on Earth for roughly 270 million years before going extinct.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Why Battery Energy Storage Is Moving to Higher DC Voltages

Download this free whitepaper to learn how battery energy storage up to 1500 VDC can deliver power efficiencies and cost reductions

1 min read

The explosive growth of the battery energy storage industry has created a need for higher DC voltages in utility-scale applications.

Download this free whitepaper and learn how you can achieve a smooth transfer of power, efficiencies and cost reductions with battery energy storage system components up to1500 VDC.