Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Hydrogen Fuel Cells - Hydrogen Fuel Cells Meredith Thomas...

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Hydrogen Fuel Cells Meredith Thomas Elect. 101 December 4, 2008
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Hydrogen Fuel Cells Hydrogen fuel cells have the potential to solve many major problems America faces today. Hydrogen is a versatile energy carrier that can be used to power nearly every end-use energy need. The fuel cell is the component that makes this possible. A fuel cell is an electrochemical energy conversion device that produces energy from fuel and an oxidant that react in the presence of an electrolyte. The fuel cell converts the hydrogen and oxygen into water, and in the process it produces electricity (HowStuffWorks). Hydrogen fuel cells have many attractive qualities but also some negative ones that come with it. A fuel cell acts in the form of a battery. However, a battery keeps its chemicals inside and converts them into electricity. This means that the battery will eventually go dead or will need to be recharged (FuelCells.org). A fuel cell will continue to work without interruption or a need to be recharged. As long as hydrogen, or other products, is flowing into the fuel cell the result will flow out. A Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) has proven to be the most promising for light-duty transportation. A PEMFC consists of four major parts as shown in Figure 1. These are the anode, cathode, electrolyte, and catalyst. In this fuel cell hydrogen flows through channels to the anode, where a catalyst forces the hydrogen molecules to separate into electrons and protons. The membrane traps the electrons and allows only the protons to pass through. The protons travel to the other side of the cell while the negatively-charged electrons follow an external circuit to the cathode. The flow of electrons can be used thusly to do work such as a power motor. On the opposite end of cell oxygen gas is pulled in from the outside air and flows into the cathode. After the electrons return from doing work they react with the hydrogen protons that have moved through the membrane and the oxygen gas (eere.energy.gov). This process forms water and is an exothermic reaction. Heat is generated and is able to be used outside of the fuel cell. This process was known as a “solid polymer electrolyte fuel cell” in the early 1970s prior to the full understanding of the proton exchange mechanism (Wikipedia).
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Figure 1 (HowStuffWorks) The amount of energy produced by a fuel cell depends on many factors. Fuel cell size, type, temperature surrounding it, and pressure of the gases supplied all play a role in the power. One single fuel cell alone produces 1 volt of electricity or less. This amount is too small for the smallest applications. The amount of electricity generated is increased by combining individual
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fuel cells in series forming a stack. A fuel cell stack can have any amount of fuel cells from a small number to even hundreds depending on the purpose. This versitile characteristic of fuel cells makes them idealistic for a large range of applications (eere.energy.gov). The first fuel cell was created in 1839 by Sir William Robert Grove. The invention,
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This note was uploaded on 09/19/2011 for the course PHYS 212 taught by Professor Tedeschi during the Spring '08 term at South Carolina.

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Hydrogen Fuel Cells - Hydrogen Fuel Cells Meredith Thomas...

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