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Tuesday 11th August, 2009 - New breakthrough may pave way for more reliable hybrid cars

Washington, August 1 : Monash University scientists have achieved a breakthrough that may help make hybrid vehicles more reliable and cheaper to build.

In a research article in the journal Science, the researchers revealed that their advancement revolves around the design of a fuel cell in which a specially-coated form of popular hi tech outdoor and sporting clothing material Goretex is the key component.

The scientists say that they have designed and tested an air-electrode, where a fine layer - just 0.4 of a micron thick, or about 100 times thinner than a human hair - of highly conductive plastic is deposited on the breathable fabric.

According to them, the conductive plastic acts as both the fuel cell electrode and catalyst.

Monash University expert Dr. Bjorn Winther-Jensen believes that Goretex may revolutionise the motor industry in the same way it has given momentum to the outdoor clothing industry.

"The same way as waste vapour is drawn out of this material to make hikers more comfortable to less prone to hypothermia, so it is able to 'breathe' oxygen into our fuel cell and into contact with the conductive plastic," Dr. Winter-Jensen said.

Doug MacFarlane, a professor at the Australian Centre for Electromaterials Science (ACES), says that the discovery is probably the most important development in fuel cell technology in the last two decades.

"The benefits for the motoring industry and for motorists are that the new design removes the need for platinum, which acts as the catalyst and is currently central to the manufacturing process," Professor MacFarlane said.

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