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Next Wave Of Cars May Be Powered By Hydrogen

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RALEIGH, N.C. — President George W. Bush recently promoted his plan to pump more money into the development of hydrogen-powered cars. A N.C. State researcher is doing what he can to make the president's wish come true.

"If you're tired of the same old endless struggles that seem to produce nothing but noise and high bills, let us promote hydrogen fuel cells as a way to advance into the 21st century," Bush said.

Toyota officials said they have a car that will be able to use hydrogen fuel cells.

"After 10 years of research and development, we have a market-ready fuel cell vehicle that we can put in service," said Jim Press of Toyota.

Richard Spontak, a chemical engineering professor at the university, is researching hydrogen fuel. His research is focused on harvesting hydrogen less expensively.

One of the challenges of developing a hydrogen-powered car is coming up with ways to purify hydrogen. Researchers at N.C. State have developed a clear polymer membrane that helps purify hydrogen from other gases.

"We want to essentially strip out, for example, carbon dioxide from hydrogen and not have to undergo costly repressurization and so forth," Spontak said.

Researchers believe the membrane helps purify hydrogen much more efficiently than other technology and it is inexpensive to produce. Researchers are also looking at ways to create the fuel and the fueling stations.

"We need to have an infrastructure in place that will allow us to just pull up to a hydrogen tank essentially and refuel the car and for this reason once again, compressed hydrogen is much more attractive," Spontak said.

Researchers said hydrogen cars would not actually burn fuel, but they would use an electrical-chemical reaction to extract power.