One of the problems that have been holding back fuel cell technology from wide scale adoption has been the cost -- fuel cells harness electricity created when two materials are mixed together in the presence of a chemical catalyst, which so far has been something expensive like a platinum alloy.
Gerald Watt, a professor at BYU (and direct decendent of James Watt
, the inventor of the steam engine), announced the development of a new kind of fuel cell that creates electricity from glucose and other sugars using a common weed killer as the catalyst.
I'm not super excited about the idea of having to dump bottles of pesticides in my (future) car, but it is a good reminder that we haven't even begun to scratch the surface of what's possible with fuel cell and other renewable technologies. Today we figured out how to run a fuel cell with pesticides; hopefully tomorrow we'll find out how to do it with something more benign.
Mr. Watt's discovery is all the more important because the carbohydrate-based fuel cells his team is working on are powered by plant-derived fuelstocks, not liquid hydrogen, which can be more difficult and expensive to store and transport. The world needs cheap fuel cells.