Fuel Cell Technology
Devices which produce electrical energy through conversion of chemical energy are referred to as fuel cells and are gaining use in different fields due to their versatility. Based on hydrogen as the conventional fuel, the cells are different from batteries due to the requisition of a steady supply of oxygen. Fuel cells consist of a positive terminal (anode), negative terminal (cathode) and an electrolyte. Although an individual fuel cell produces only small potentials of approximately 0.7v and have energy efficiencies of up to 85% (Noriko, 2012), fuel cells arranged in series can provide huge potentials used in power generation for lights, powering motors or other applications.
In addition to the electric power generated via fuel cells, the cells also produce nitrogen dioxide, water and heat. Fuel cells are classified into numerous types depending on the type of electrolyte used. Some of these types include: alkaline fuel cells which can burn up to 700 degrees Celsius (Irvine & Connor, 2011), polymer membrane exchange fuel cells and molten carbonate fuel cells. Each of the fuel cell types operates optimally in different temperature conditions.
Fuel cells of different types find applications in various places. The most common types are stationary fuel cells which operate without combustion and without moving parts which are applied in remote weather stations, commercial and residential outlets. In recent times, fuel cells based on hydrogen have been used to develop electric vehicle prototypes which have been confirmed effective through testing. In the future, fuel cell vehicles will find wide applications such as in research as unmanned aerial vehicles, submarines are also designed to use fuel cells (Crabtree & Buchanan, 2004). Similarly, motorcycles and bicycles have been made to use fuel cells. In conclusion, the fuel cell technology forms the future of transportation, as well as portable devices in the future. The application of hydrogen as a fuel will replace the fossil fuel combustion technologies that are presently being used in transportation.
Crabtree, G.W. and Buchanan, M. (2004). The Hydrogen Economy. Physics Today Journal, 57, 39-44.
Irvine, J.S. and Connor, P. (2011). Solid Oxide Fuel Cells Facts and Figures: Past, Present and Future Perspectives for SOFC Technologies. London: Springer.
Noriko, H. (2012). Fuel Cells: Current Technology Challenges and Future Research Needs. Tokyo: Elsevier Academic Press.
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