Cactus-inspired skin gives electric cars a spike

Cactus-inspired skin gives electric cars a spike


[Music plays] (Cara) Hi, I’m Cara. I’m a material scientist working at CSIRO Manufacturing. I look at porous materials for a range of applications for the environment. CSIRO and Hanyang University have been collaborating together for about ten years now, looking at the porosity at the molecular level in membranes. So these membranes are inspired by the cactus, where in hot, arid conditions the cracks on the surface actually close up to prevent the water from evaporating out. And then in cooler conditions the cracks actually open up so that the water can enter into the membranes and hydrate them. So here at CSIRO we were able to characterise these membranes and investigate these small pore sizes to tailor the materials for a range of applications, such as in fuel cells, where they need to be working at high temperatures and in dry conditions. So by optimising the membrane we can potentially use these fuel cells in cars of the future. (Aaron) Hi, I’m Aaron. I’m a mathematician here at CSIRO, and I was able to model these membranes to explain why they perform so well. We were able to probe the pore size as well as develop the modelling to understand how water transports through these pores so that the fuel cells can remain hydrated in drier conditions. Fuel cells are a promising technology for the future of the car industry. One of the technical challenges preventing fuel cell powered vehicles entering the market is that the fuel cells don’t last very long because they dry out. These membranes are able to self humidify the fuel cells so that you don’t need a humidifier onboard, and so that they’re less expensive and they last a lot longer. They also increase the performance up to fourfold. Cara)( The technique that we use, we can measure the size and the number of pores at the molecular level to optimise these materials. And this can only be done in a handful of labs around the world. [Music plays]