Fuel cell technology is one of the best alternatives to fossil fuel combustion because it reduces air pollution affecting the health of millions. Fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen from air to produce electricity with water being the final product. While the fuel, hydrogen, can be obtained from water, engineers use natural gas to produce most of today’s hydrogen. Nonetheless, a global hydrogen initiative of scientists and engineers has plans to look into renewable and environmental-friendly ways of producing hydrogen in the future.
Fuel cells have various advantages compared to conventional power sources like the internal combustion engines or batteries.
These are the benefits of fuel cells –
- Fuel cells have higher efficiency than diesel or gas engines.
- Fuel cells work silently and they are ideally suited for use within buildings like commercial constructions.
- Fuel cells such as hydrogen fuel cells eliminate pollution caused by burning fossil fuels.
- Fuel cell also eliminates greenhouse gases for example, when clean electrolysis of water is used.
- Fuel cells do not require conventional fuels like oil or gas (though they can use them) and thus reduce the economic dependence on oil-producing countries.
- Fuel cells generate electricity that can be distributed and be grid-dependent.
- Stationary fuel cells can be used to generate power at the point of use for small and medium decentralized power grids.
- High temperature fuel cells produce process heat that is suited to co-generation applications.
- Unlike in batteries, the operation time of fuel cells can be extended by increasing the amount of fuel.
Like a battery, a fuel cell has two electrodes which carry charges from one electrode to the other. The reaction in a single fuel cell produces only about 0.7 volts. However, if the cells are stacked and connected in in series, their voltage increases and they can be used in cars. Scientists and engineers are developing fuel cells that run on wastewater. These so-called microbial fuel cells use microbes to break down organic matter in the wastewater. This fuel cell technology is still requires cost optimization and performance improvements to become fully competitive.