What Is Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology?

by | Apr 14, 2024 | FAQ, Renewable Energy

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Hydrogen fuel cell technology is a clean and efficient energy source that turns hydrogen gas into electricity while emitting only water and heat as by-products. Fuel cells, which harness the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, offer a promising alternative to traditional combustion engines, with uses ranging from transportation to stationary power generation.

What Exactly Does a Fuel Cell Do?

A fuel cell is required to turn hydrogen (H2) into energy; technically, this is a hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell. It is also commonly referred to as a “hydrogen fuel cell”. The following terms “fuel cell” and “hydrogen fuel cell” are used interchangeably. In hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen is used as the fuel, and oxygen (O2) is the oxidant. Hydrogen fuel cells outperform traditional power plants in terms of efficiency because they transform chemical energy directly into electrical energy and heat.

Fuel cell systems, when combined with a fuel storage system and hydrogen recycling, open up a world of possibilities for clean energy generation. The power spectrum of hydrogen fuel cells spans from sub-kW for individual cells to megawatts for virtual power plants. This versatility is reflected in their wide range of applications, from building heat and power supply to off-grid applications, vehicles, aircraft, and ship propulsion. Fuel cells have sparked a wave of interest, particularly in discussions about the role of hydrogen in e-mobility, inviting us to explore the many ways this technology can shape our future.

How Does a Fuel Cell Function, and How is it Designed?

What Is Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology?

A fuel cell comprises a network of cells separated by separators and stacked together. As in solid oxide fuel cells, a fuel cell’s construction is flat in layers or tubular. Electrolysis is critical to the operation of fuel cells: a liquid or solid electrolyte forms the core of each cell, which is surrounded on both sides by bipolar electrode plates (anode and cathode). These plates have a porous diffusion layer (GDL – gas diffusion layer) that directs reaction gases over a precious metal-coated catalyst surface (low and medium temperatures) or a catalyst consisting of nickel, ceramic, or steel (high temperatures). This is how most fuel cells divide hydrogen on the anode side and discharge electrons to the electrical consumer. Hydrogen protons go through the electrolyte to the cathode side, mixing with additional oxygen to generate water (H2O).

Efficiency

Fuel cells, with their impressive efficiency, use hydrogen to generate energy. A fuel cell vehicle is a prime example: the fuel cell produces electricity, which powers the vehicle, with only emission-free water vapor discharged from the exhaust. Currently, the efficiency of a fuel cell stands at around 60%, a testament to its effectiveness in meeting our energy needs. It’s important to note that this is not to be confused with a hydrogen engine, which is a different type of hydrogen-powered engine.

In the end, hydrogen fuel cell technology not only provides a clean and efficient alternative to traditional fossil fuels but also paves the way for a more sustainable energy future. Its capacity to generate energy from the chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen while emitting only water vapor as a by-product is a beacon of hope in our fight against climate change. As improvements continue, hydrogen fuel cells hold the potential to revolutionize the global transportation and energy industries, offering a brighter, greener future.

Also Read: Electric vs Hydrogen Cars: Which Is More Energy Efficient?

 

Author

  • Michael Thompson

    Michael Thompson is an esteemed expert in the renewable energy sector, with a profound experience spanning over 25 years. His expertise encompasses various sustainable energy solutions, including solar, wind, hydroelectric, and energy efficiency practices. Michael discusses the latest trends in renewable energy and provides practical advice on energy conservation.

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