Fuel cell and its important applications.
Any type of fuel is a source of energy. A fuel cell is a device, which can convert the chemical energy of a fuel such as hydrogen directly into clean electrical energy by a process known as electrochemical reactions.
A fuel cell is a device, which can convert the chemical energy of a fuel such as a hydrogen, methane, etc. into clean electrical energy directly by a process known as electrochemical reactions. Such a cell is a type of galvanic cell designed to excel in the production of electricity than traditional combustion engines.
The battery is also called a cell and there is a small difference between the working of a battery and a fuel cell. A fuel cell can generate electricity continuously by converting the available fuel supply, whereas a battery stores energy for use. If the fuel is supplied to the fuel cell it can give electricity at any time anywhere.
The use of green hydrogen as fuel can guarantee you cent percent clean energy by the cell. However, hydrogen-like blue hydrogen, brown hydrogen, turquoise hydrogen, pink hydrogen, etc. can be used as fuel. The most common form of hydrogen now available are grey and blue hydrogen produced from fossil fuels like natural gas causing damage to the environment.
How it works:
A fuel cell contains the components like an anode(a negative electrode), a cathode,(a positive electrode), and an electrolyte. Both electrodes are sandwiched around an electrolyte. Fine powder of platinum or palladium metal can be used in a negative electrode and nickel/platinum in the case of a positive electrode. The electrolyte can be prepared from substances including potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, phosphoric acid, etc. It is designed in such a way that only ions can pass through it but not electrons.
The fuel cell works like a battery but it neither exhausts like a battery nor needs a recharge. Till the fuel is continued in supply, it continues producing energy and water, etc. Here fuel is normally hydrogen fed at an anode where a catalyst causes the oxidation reaction that separates the hydrogen molecules into protons(positively charged ions) and electrons.
The ions travel through the electrolyte from the anode to the cathode. The electrons on the other hand pass-through different routes of the circuit to the cathode producing DC electricity. At the cathode, the air is fed, where another catalyst causes, the electron and oxygen( from the air) a reduction reaction producing water (H2O) and heat. A Cell structure is given at “A”.
The chemical reactions at the cathode and anode can be written as follows;
Anode-2H2(g)+4OH–(aq) → 4H2O(1)+4e-
The overall reaction shall be;
Each cell can have the potential to produce about 0.7V. Each cell is stacked in sandwiched by bipolar plates to connect more cells as per the requirement to produce more DC power.
Advantages of fuel cell;
The fuel cell got many advantages against its rival combustion-based technologies being used in many fields. Fuel cells can have the advantages as such;
- Fuel cells can operate unabated with high efficiencies capable of exceeding 60% till the feeding of the fuel is continued and convert the chemical energy of the fuel is to electrical energy directly.
- As it is fed hydrogen and air it generates cent percent clean energy, heat, and zero emissions, which is the call of the time.
- If green hydrogen is fed, then in the entire process starting from the generation of hydrogen to the generation of electricity, the total emission would be zero.
- Zero emission means, zero pollution, a green future, and smiling earth, a big smile in the face of our bright future generation.
- Researchers have started developing affordable fuel cells for the generation of green energy and most of the big countries including the USA, European countries, India, China, etc have formulated policies to give impetus to the Hydrogen economy.
Applications of fuel cells:
We need energy for survival and it is now the soul of all human activities. As fuel cells can convert the chemical energy of the fuel to electrical energy directly their importance and uses make much good sense.
- They are used in many applications, across multiple sectors, such as transportation,(for power supply to vehicles, including buses, cars, trucks, boats, trains, and submarines), and power supply to commercial, residential buildings, and industrial establishments.
- Applications of fuel cells are witnessed in space programs. The cells were used to provide electricity to the Apollo space program and condensed drinking water supplied to astronauts generated by the cells.
- Very essential for emergency backup power.
- Energy can be produced at any time at any where once the fuel is made available.
- It can able to generate electricity in inaccessible pockets to add value to the inhabitants.
Fuel cells are very useful tools for the generation of clean energy from hydrogen. Such cells were invented by Sir William Grove in 1838. However, the invention of Hydrogen-Oxygen fuel cells by Francis Thomas Bacon of England in 1932 gave it commercial color. Since then new technologies added to the cells for more efficiencies and affordabilities. Now uses of the cells in vehicles and commercial power supply for residential and industrial purposes are adding value to our fight for clean energy.