Oct 29

Introduction to Fuel Cell

A fuel cell is an electrochemical mechanism that produces power without combustion by joining hydrogen and oxygen to generate water and heat. The voltage created by a single cell is typically rather small (< 1 volt), so many cells are connected in series to create a useful voltage. Hydrogen fuel cells are feasible to modernize the way the globe visions, generates, and utilizes energy. So far, hydrogen has been used to power, mobile phones to NASA’s space programs etc.

At room temperature, hydrogen is:

· The easiest and most rich constituent

· Lighter than air

· Colourless

· Odourless

· Harmless

· Additional energy per weight than any other energy mediums.

· More proficient than current fuels used in transportation

· The only by products of Hydrogen Fuel Cells are water vapour, electricity, and heat translating to Zero Carbon Emissions

Fuel cells are really attractive from an ecological stand point.

01-Hydrogen Fuel Cells - what is fuel cell technology

Hydrogen Fuel and air contains oxygen react when they come into make contact with a porous membrane (electrolyte) which split them. This reaction end results in a transmission of electrons and ions across the electrolyte from the anode to the cathode. If an external load is fastened to this arrangement, a complete circuit is created and a voltage is generated from the stream of electrical current.

Fuel Cell vs. Battery

Essential operating principles of both are very similar, but there are numerous intrinsic differences.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Galvanic Cell (Battery)

· Open system

· Anode and cathode are gases make contact with a platinum catalyst.

· Reactants are externally supplied, no recharging required.

· Closed system

· Anode and cathode are metals.

· Reactants are internally conducted, require periodic recharging.

Fuel Cell Vs. Internal Combustion Engine

Similarities Differences

· Both use hydrogen-rich fuel.

· Both employ compressed air as the oxidant.

· Both require cooling.

Fuel cell:

· Output is electrical work.

· Fuel and oxidant respond electrochemically.

· Modest to nil pollution produced.

I.C. Engine:

· Output is mechanical work.

· Fuel and oxidant reacts by the process of combustion.

· Use of fossil fuels can generate considerable pollution.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Efficiency

· 40% efficiency generated, converting methanol to hydrogen in reformer

· 80% of hydrogen energy content converted to electrical energy

· 80% efficiency for inverter/motor – Converts electrical to mechanical energy

· Overall efficiency of 24-32%

Auto Power Efficiency Comparison

Technology System
Fuel Cell 24-32%
Electric Battery 26%
Gasoline Engine 20%

A hydrogen fuel cell is similar to a battery in that it generates electricity from an electrochemical reaction. Both batteries and hydrogen fuel cells exchange chemical energy into electrical energy and also, it generates heat as a by-product of this process. However, a battery holds a closed circuit which stores energy within it and once this is run down the battery must be disposing of, or recharged by using an external supply of electricity to force the electrochemical reaction in the reverse direction.

01-working of PEM fuel cells - Fuel Cell Operation

Likewise a fuel cell uses an external delivery of chemical energy and it can run for an indefinite period of supply with a resource of hydrogen cylinder and a source of oxygen (usually air). The resource of hydrogen is in general referred to as the fuel and this presents the fuel cell its name, even though at this instant, no combustion happened. Oxidation of the hydrogen as an alternative takes place electrochemically in a very proficient way. During oxidation, hydrogen atoms react with oxygen atoms to form water; in this method electrons are freed and flow through an external circuit as an electric current.

01-fuel cell stack - portable fuel cell

Fuel cells can differ from miniature devices producing only a few watts of electricity right up to large power plants producing megawatts. All fuel cells are based just about a central design using two electrodes divided by a solid or liquid electrolyte that carries electrically charged particles between them. A catalyst is regularly used to speed up the reactions at the electrodes. Fuel cells are normally classified according to the nature of the electrolyte they use. Each type requires particular materials and fuels and is suitable for different applications.

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May 03

Mankind has been harnessing the energy of the sun since the seventh century B.C. The sun’s rays shower the earth’s surface and humans have been using them to satisfy their energy needs. Each hour of sunshine theoretically will contribute to satisfy the globe’s energy demand per annum. The ancient civilizations particularly, Rome and Greece demonstrated their initial documented use of sunlight by burning mirrors to light torches for spiritual functions. Ancient architectural designs in Rome and Greece utilized passive solar design i.e. the utilization of sunlight to heat and light indoor areas. This system still remains until today as one of the foremost economical in which to use the alternative energy. This was taken a step additionally and mica was used to cover south facing buildings to trap the warmth.

A jump in time to the Ninetieth century shows great advancements in technology and different needs to tap sunlight to useful work. The history of alternative solar energy hence, demonstrates advancements in solar technologies comparing to changes in human energy demand. With environmental conditions and depletion, and cost of fossil fuels, today’s world perpetually strives for the most effective technically and economically feasible way to use definitely the greatest natural resource – the sun.

In 1839 French scientist Edmond Becquerel astonishingly at the age of nineteen years discovers the photovoltaic effect while experimenting with an electrolytic cell made up of two metal electrodes (Platinum) placed in an electricity-conducting solution where electricity-generation increased once exposed to Direct Sun light. Also he discovered different colours and different types of light had produced different effects on producing power. Best results he obtained from Blue lights and Ultra violet coloured lights. Even he tested with Coating of various materials over the electrode. He obtained Silver Chloride AgCl or Silver Bromide AgBr coating produces maximum efficiency.

01-Edmond Becquerel- photovoltaic effect setup- first photo electricity generation method

In 1860s French mathematician August Mouchet proposed an idea for solar-powered steam engines. In that project, solar energy could be used to power engines to do tasks such as Ice making. He coupled steam engine to his refrigeration device where steam engine power got from sun. In the following 20 years, he and his assistant, Abel Pifre, designed the first solar powered engines and used them for a variety of applications. These engines became the forerunner of modern parabolic dish collectors.

01-solar powered steam engine

In 1873 Willoughby Smith an electrical engineer of UK and his assistant Joseph May discovered the photoconductivity of selenium (Se). The electrical resistance properties varied (decreased) dramatically with the amount of light (increase intensity of incident light) falling on it. This concept is used for converting images into electrical signals, which is the basis for yesteryears television system. He also tested the conductivity properties of Selenium, which is exposed to light.

01-selenium (Se) Wafers - Selenium Rod

In 1877 William Grylls Adams and his student Richard Evans Day of UK discovered that selenium produces electricity once exposed to light. In spite of selenium solar cells failed in their attempt to convert enough sunlight to power (1 to 2 percentage efficiency) the electrical equipment, they verified that a solid material may change the light into electricity without heat or moving elements. Until 1970, Selenium cell properties used for very low power applications such as photographic exposure meter.

01-Selenium (Se) Glass tube - Adams and Day Photoconductivity setup

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