Science: Philosophers' Cell

For more than a century, electrical engineers have sought a kind of philosophers' stone: a cell that will turn chemical fuel directly into electricity. They have had little success, but the present means of generating electricity by first burning fuel in a heat engine is so inefficient (seldom better than 30%) that they have kept on trying. A fuel cell, theoretically, could be almost 100% efficient.

In Britain's B.E.A.M.A. (British Electrical and Allied Manufacturers' Association) Journal, Engineer F. T. Bacon of Cambridge describes the most hopeful approach so far to a practical fuel cell. Bacon uses two diaphragms of porous nickel set...

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