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The Working of Fuel Cells

Fuel cells have a long history but currently experience a revival along with other forms of distributed generation to mitigate the greenhouse effect. They are a special type of galvanic cells which that can be fueled by solid, liquid, or gaseous fuel. The cells produce electricity through chemical reactions without hot combustion. They are there for particularly energy efficient. Most fuel cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into water in a process the leads to the generation of electricity. They are therefore electro chemical conversion devices is producing water, electricity, and small amounts of heat.

How do fuel cells work?

A fuel cell is using the chemical energy of the hydrogen or another fuel to efficiently produce electricity. To build a fuel cell, first make sure which fuel will be used. If hydrogen is the fuel, then electricity, water, and heat are the only products. The cells are unique in terms of the variety of potential applications. They can power everything from vehicles including spacecraft or an entire infrastructure.

Fuel cells are working like batteries and they do not need recharging, just refueling. They produce electricity as long as the fuel is supplied in a sufficient manner. The fuel cell is consisting of at least two electrodes namely a negative electrode (or cathode, where the positive charges travel to) and a positive electrode (or anode, where negative charges travel) − that is sandwiched around an electrolyte. A fuel like hydrogen is fed to the anode, and air or oxygen is fed to the cathode. A catalyst at the anode separates hydrogen molecules into protons & electrons, the latter generate electrical current.

The fuel cells are used in a wide range of applications, including transportation, material handling, and stationary, portable and backup power applications. The cells have numerous benefits over conventional combustion-based technologies currently used in power plants & vehicles. Fuel cells emit only water, so there are no carbon dioxide emissions during operation.

 Different elements of the fuel cell

The anode is the positive post of the fuel cell serving several purposes. Electrons are freed from the hydrogen molecules so that they can be used in an electrical circuit. Pores in the electrode disperse the hydrogen gas equally on the surface of the catalyst.

The cathode is the negative post and also porous. Oxygen gets dispersed on the surface of the catalyst and it can recombine with the hydrogen ions & oxygen to form water.

The electrolyte can be a proton exchange membrane or another porous or liquid material. Some membranes look like ordinary kitchen plastic wrap, put have micro pores to allow positively charged ions to pass through.

Catalysts are vital to fuel cells in that they facilitate the reactions of oxygen and hydrogen. They can be made of platinum nano-particles very thinly coated onto carbon paper, cloth, or other, arterial.

The proton exchange membrane is the heart of the cell and it allows protons to pass through it unimpeded blocking other compounds of that are also present in the electrolyte.

What are the advantages of fuel cells?

  • Fuel cells avoid the ‘thermal bottleneck’ and thus are more efficient than combustion engines. Chemical energy is directly converted into electrical energy which makes fuel cells more efficient than combustion engines.
  • Direct emissions from fuel cells are just water and a little heat. This is a huge improvement over internal combustion engines’ litany of greenhouse gases.
  • The cells do not contain moving parts and are therefore much more reliable than traditional engines.
  • The cells can be produced in an environment-friendly manner, as opposed to oil refining which is very damaging our environment.

Hydrogen fuel cells do not produce air pollutants or greenhouse gases and significantly improves the environment. The cells are the most efficient form of energy conversion apparatuses converting chemical into electrical energy.