What is a Fuel Cell?

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Jun 14, 2022, 9:13

The Apollo space programme was the first initiative that used Fuel Cell to achieve two crucial purposes. The Fuel Cell not only supplied energy but also drinking water.

The chemical energy of fuel was converted to have access to electricity while the gas produced from the Fuel Cell was condensed further to produce potable water.

Definition of Fuel Cell

Fuel cells transform hydrogen's chemical energy and produce electricity, leaving only clean water and highly lucrative heat as residues.

Hydrogen-powered fuel cells are not only contamination-free, but also they can outperform standard combustion technologies.

The Working Mechanism of Fuel Cell

The Fuel Cell mechanism of electricity production is entirely dependent on the reactions that take place between hydrogen and oxygen.

The Fuel Cell has two electrodes involving the cathode and anode. The hydrogen and oxygen are passed through these electrodes into a bed of concentrated sodium hydroxide solution. However, the rate of reaction is so slow that it may require ages to produce any energy. So, the catalytic energy of platinum or palladium is introduced to speed up the reaction.

The scientific approach specifies the fact that if the surface area is increased, the rate of reaction is also elevated. Hence, the catalysts are finely cut before being introduced into the reaction to increase the surface area. Polymer electrolyte membrane Fuel Cell, alkaline Fuel Cell, and direct methanol Fuel Cell are some examples of Fuel Cells.

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The Applications of Fuel Cell

The application range of Fuel Cell is quite widespread. It can be used to generate electricity, which can then be used to power backup power systems. Besides that, portable Fuel Cells can be used to yield energy for laptops, unattended sensors, cell phones, battery chargers machine tools, military equipment and unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles.

Fuel Cells can also be used to maintain a smooth transportation system by recharging buses, utility vehicles, scooters, and bicycles. Since Fuel Cell-mediated vehicles use the method of clean fuels to produce energy, they are way more environmentally friendly than any petrol-based engines that cause the combustion of fuels.

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The remote and distant regions where introducing conventional electricity systems would be onerous can use Fuel Cell to generate energy to have access to electricity.

The study and research specify the fact that Fuel Cell has a 70 per cent efficiency in the generation of electricity, whereas the conventional system of thermal power plants has a 40 per cent efficiency. This difference in efficiency occurs due to the potential of Fuel Cells to convert energy directly from chemical to electrical.

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FAQs on Fuel Cell

Q1. What is a Fuel Cell?

The working principle of the Fuel Cell shares a similarity with the battery. However, the energy of the Fuel Cell is neither drained nor required for recharging. Fuel Cells refer to the electrochemical cells that are capable of transforming the chemical energy of fuel into electric energy. There are two types of electrodes in the Fuel Cell, including the cathode and the anode. The cathode refers to the positive electrode while the anode denotes the negative one. Hydrogen can be used in Fuel Cells to make electricity through a chemical reaction rather than burning, leaving only water and heat as residue.

Q2. What are the applications of the Fuel Cell?

Fuel Cells can be used to generate electricity, which can then be used to power backup power systems, laptops, cell phones, machine tools, military equipment, battery chargers, unattended sensors, and unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles. Fuel Cells can also be used to run buses, utility vehicles, scooters, and bicycles.

Q3. How many kinds of Fuel Cells are there?

There are various kinds of Fuel Cells developed for different purposes, including polymer electrolyte membrane Fuel Cells, solid oxide Fuel Cells, alkaline Fuel Cells, molten carbonate Fuel Cells, direct methanol Fuel Cells, phosphoric acid Fuel Cells, and reversible Fuel Cells.

Q4. What are the disadvantages of Fuel Cells?

The Fuel Cell is extremely costly and has a shorter life span when it comes to the comparison of petrol-mediated engines. Besides that, hydrogen filling is crucial to keep the Fuel Cell active. However, the presence of hydrogen filling stations is very minimal across the country.