Brussels, 19 May 2004
Brussels played host to two initiatives aimed at bringing some of the newest and most promising technology to the public on 18 May, and EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin paid a visit to both.
Two travelling exhibitions were in town. The first, the German 'nanoTruck', has an interactive display illustrating how nanotechnology is already used, as well as its potential uses in the future. The second, the Open Fuel Cell Marathon, comprises two vehicles - a fuel cell car which, for the first time ever, is being driven 10,000 km across Europe, and an accompanying mobile exhibition.
The fuel cell marathon began in Hammerfest in Norway on 3 May. The aim is to drive a fuel cell car a distance of around 10,000 km, through 14 countries, finishing at the most westerly point of mainland Europe, Cabo da Roca in Portugal. GM Motors developed the fuel cell technology for the car, and it has been installed in an Opel (Vauxhall). Lars-Peter Thiesen, Opel's Commuications Manager, explained that the marathon really is an experiment, and that no-one is certain that the challenge can be completed. However, the car has already travelled 4,000 kilometres, so far there have been no problems, and everyone involved is confident.
In addition to the distance covered, another test for the car is how it deals with diverse weather conditions and changes in temperature. The vehicle will also be driven by numerous drivers, mainly journalists and celebrities from the countries through which it passes. Indeed, Mr Busquin took the car for a quick spin in Brussels.
The car runs on pure liquid hydrogen. It is able to refuel on the road, but as fuel stations have yet to offer hydrogen, the car must be accompanied by a mobile station. GM Motors is hoping that this will soon change, as the company expects to be ready to commercialise the technology in 2010.
A little more work is needed first. The car's total weight is still 200 kg heavier than an internal combustion vehicle, but researchers are working on bringing the weight down.
GM currently has 600 employees in the US, Germany and Japan working on fuel cell technology. Around 230 of these are in Germany, where work on integrating the fuel cell system into the vehicle was performed. Mr Thiesen also pointed to German expertise on hydrogen storage as an additional reason for carrying out so many fuel cell activities in Europe.
In the neighbouring nanoTruck, Mr Busquin was treated to a demonstration of nano-products that are already on the market, such as a scratch-resistant coating for glass and an instrument that makes atoms visible. The Commissioner was also presented with a water-resistant tie, manufactured using nanotechnology.
The information campaign, entitled 'nanoTruck: a journey to the nanocosmos - a world of minute proportions', was devised by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. The ministry's State Secretary, Dieter Dudenhausen, accompanied Mr Busquin on his visit.
The exhibits in the truck demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of nanotechnology. Examples of nanomaterials, nanobiotechnology, nanoanalytics, nanochemistry and nanofabrication are all on display, along with information on the technology's potential uses and potential risks.
The truck has proved a huge success in Germany. In just three months it attracted more than 35,000 visitors in 29 locations. A total of 95 stopovers in Germany are planned before the end of the year.
For further information on the fuel cell marathon, please visit:
For further information on the nanoTruck, please visit: