China hydrogen fuel-cell capacity leaps almost 650pc in a year

6 Sep 2019

Image: © fotomek/

This week in future tech, Chinese media has reported that the country’s expansion of hydrogen fuel cells has accelerated to unprecedented levels.

China’s bid to ditch its image as one of the world’s major polluters appears to be in full swing, particularly when it comes to hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen is one source of cleaner energy being looked at by researchers in the auto industry on a small scale, but recent developments in the technology could see it increase.

According to China’s Xinhua News, the country’s installed capacity of hydrogen fuel cells has jumped by 642.6pc year on year to almost 46,000kW – quite a small scale when countries the size of China typically require gigawatts of electricity to sustain itself. The number of hydrogen vehicles sold in China is close to the number produced (1,106 out of 1,176), according to a report from the Power Battery Application Branch of China Industrial Association of Power Sources (CIAPS).

The vast majority of vehicles using hydrogen fuel cells are buses and specialised vehicles, rather than private cars, due to a lack of existing infrastructure. While the government announced the scaling back of subsidies for electric vehicles, buses and vehicles using fuel cells can still continue to receive them, potentially contributing to a rise in demand, the report said.

A CIAPS analyst said: “As the sector is still in the preliminary stage and hydrogen fuel cells are considered a significant alternative energy source in the long term, government support will probably persist for a long time.”

Japan plans to be centre of autonomous cars in 2020

Just before the Tokyo Olympics takes place next July, dozens of autonomous cars will travel freely around venues in the city’s waterfront spots as a means of promoting the technology.

According to Bloomberg, approximately 100 cars provided by the likes of Toyota and Nissan will carry up to 7,000 passengers for a week. It’s also planned that across the duration of the sporting spectacle, more than a dozen Toyota robot vehicles will shuttle athletes and staff based at the Olympic and Paralympic villages.

Japan is already working towards making itself the centre of autonomous vehicle development, with plans to run a number of tests between now and 2022 on the streets of Tokyo. By 2025, the Asian nation aims to have autonomous vehicles for sale.

Ultra-miniaturised device can image single cells without a microscope

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have revealed a device that is so small it can photograph a single cell with a microscope and using a smartphone camera. In a paper published to Science, the researchers said the device consists of a single nanowire 1,000 times thinner than a human hair, making it the smallest spectrometer ever designed.

“When you take a photograph, the information stored in pixels is generally limited to just three components – red, green, and blue,” said co-first author, Tom Albrow-Owen.

“With our device, every pixel contains data points from across the visible spectrum, so we can acquire detailed information far beyond the colours which our eyes can perceive. This can tell us, for instance, about chemical processes occurring in the frame of the image.”

The researchers said this new device could be used in potential applications such as assessing the freshness of foods, the quality of drugs, or even identifying counterfeit objects, all from a smartphone camera.

NB-IoT service revenues to exceed $2.6bn by 2024

Juniper Research has published a report estimating that narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) devices that require little power to operate will surge in value in the coming years. It is expected to exceed $2.6bn by 2024, rising from just $290m in 2019 – marking growth of 800pc.

However, the research found that networks using an unlicensed spectrum – such as Sigfox and LoRa – will provide stern competition to cellular NB-IoT technologies. The low investment cost of unlicensed spectrum networks, enabled by cost-effective network devices, will drive adoption to exceed 160m connections by 2024. The research identified smart cities as a sector primed for disruption by low-power IoT technologies.

“The concept of a smart city has been hindered by the substantial investment required and lack of clarity on securing a return on this investment,” said research author Sam Barker.

“These low-cost IoT technologies enable stakeholders to secure this return on investment earlier and take full advantage of the smart city proposition.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic