A direct energy conversion device, such as a fuel cell, using carbon aerogel electrodes, wherein the carbon aerogel is loaded with a noble catalyst, such as platinum or rhodium and soaked with phosphoric acid, for example. A separator is located between the electrodes, which are placed in a cylinder having plate current collectors positioned adjacent the electrodes and connected to a power supply, and a pair of gas manifolds, containing hydrogen and oxygen positioned adjacent the current collectors. Due to the high surface area and excellent electrical conductivity of carbon aerogels, the problems relative to high polarization resistance of carbon composite electrodes conventionally used in fuel cells are overcome.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.