Hydrogen Cell Technology

Hydrogen Fueling Station
Hydrogen Fueling Station | Source

What Is A Hydrogen Fuel Cell?

A hydrogen fuel cell uses hydrogen in a chemical reaction to generate electricity. The reason this form of power generation is a much better alternative to burning fossil fuels is because the only by-product or exhaust leftover from the reaction is water and a little heat.

Much like a battery this fuel cell uses two electrodes, an anode (negative electrode) and a cathode (positive electrode). But that is where the comparison to a conventional battery ends. The method by which electricity is created from the reaction in the fuel cell is shown in the diagram below.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell
Hydrogen Fuel Cell | Source

The Fuel Cell Process

1) Hydrogen is introduced to the Anode where the electrons are stripped from the hydrogen atoms and become electricity.

2) The left over positively charged hydrogen ions (with no electrons) pass through the electrolyte and reach the cathode.

3) At the cathode air is introduced and the oxygen from the air readily bonds with the leftover hydrogen ions to form water.

Incidentally the process also works in reverse when electricity is passed through water it can also create hydrogen and oxygen.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Bus
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Bus | Source

Practical Applications and Uses

Even now across the world there are hydrogen fueling stations and while it is true that they are a small fraction compared to gasoline fueling stations the amount continues to grow. Currently there are 85 hydrogen fueling stations in the United States.

The hydrogen fuel cell generates electricity which runs an electric motor in the vehicle. So far manufacturers have developed automobiles, buses, forklifts, motorcycles, airplanes, boats and submarines which use hydrogen fuel cells for operation. Other than motor vehicles this technology is also being incorporated into telecommunications equipment, emergency power generation, and even electronics such as laptops, cell phones, and small appliances.

PROS

1) It's non-destructive to the environment. Water is converted into hydrogen and oxygen, the hydrogen goes through the fuel cell creating electricity and then recombines with oxygen to return to water. It is a continuous cycle and leaves no waste that could destroy the environment.

2) Home fueling devices can be use solar power to perform electrolysis of water as mentioned earlier to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen.

3) To the consumer this means that you can create the fuel that powers your vehicle at no cost. Fueling stations also use this method becoming self sufficient.

CONS

1) As a new technology the demand for hydrogen from fueling stations is still low thus causing such companies promoting the technology financial instability.

2) Some parts of the cell can be very expensive and this drives up the price of using the technology.

3) Substandard materials used in fuel cells can be more susceptible to corrosion.

4) The fuel cell can be sensitive to both high temperatures and impurities in the fuel such as carbon dioxide.

Fuel Cell Car
Fuel Cell Car | Source

Hydrogen Fuel VS. Gasoline

Overall the continued use of fossil fuels is unsustainable which is not just due to limited supply but also the detrimental effects to the environment. As of 2010 the amount of vehicles has surpassed the one billion mark and the vast majority of these run exclusively on fossil fuels. One billion trails of black smoke spewing from each machine, let alone industrial manufacturing stacks, and other forms of pollution. In contrast if these one billion vehicles ran on hydrogen fuel cells they would be creating zero pollution.

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Comments 20 comments

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas

Saw this technology several years ago on TV -- think it was on 60-Minutes, but I'm not sure it's been so long. Thought at the time it would be as perfect a renewable energy source as one could hope for. I think developing a cell with enough power to make the vehicle go the way we're used to -- fast, was the issue back then.

Of course the real issue is that people with a lot of money have a lot of their money sunk into the oil business and so they aren't crazy about switching because it will mean a big loss for them.

Great hub! Voted you up, useful, interesting, and awesome!


dmop profile image

dmop 4 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

I learned of this process in chemistry class many years ago. It sounded like a good alternative to fossil fuels then and still does now. I can only hope that in the near future sustainable energy will be the rule rather than the exception. Great article, I gave it a vote up, useful, and interesting.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Au fait - you are right of course the oil industry is a huge obstacle to this technology. I think this is a path that is an eventuality, but hopefully sooner rather than later for the environment's sake.


kelleyward 4 years ago

I need to learn more about this technology because it sounds like it is a potential path for fossil fuels. Thanks for the helpful information. Voted up and useful! Kelley


TravelAbout profile image

TravelAbout 4 years ago from United States

If you think how far technology has come, it seems strange that we have had such a difficult time finding a way to remove our need of foreign oil. We must also find ways to protect the environment. Your hub was very enlightening and I learned some great information for a gal that is very mechanically 'challenged' so to speak. Voted up and interesting.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

dmop - I hope so too, I am all for this technology. The part I loved the most is that people could create the fuel at their home using a solar powered device for electrolysis on water to create their own hydrogen fuel. That's no cost except for the equipment :)


Lipnancy profile image

Lipnancy 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

How cool is that? I hope that it can be on the market soon. Voted Up and Shared.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

kelleyward - glad you like it :) and thanks for reading!


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

TravelAbout - if intellect prevails this will most likely be the technology that is used in majority in the future. Only time will tell but hydrogen fuel cells are a mazrvel and run clean.


TravelAbout profile image

TravelAbout 4 years ago from United States

That is the big "IF". I'm not sure we've seen a whole lot of that in the last few years and sadly it is probably because of greed. It is crazy that in five years my home gas bill went from an average of $200 month to $800 in the coldest months of winter. That is for one level of our home which is maybe 1,800 sq. ft. We also have seen our electric rise but not quite as much and also our water and sewer. It's insane is what it is when there is this technology out there that could do such good in so many ways! We all need to be activists and make our messages heard. Thanks...I'm done ranting now terrektwo. thanks for listening :)


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Lipnancy - well the market has begun for Hydrogen Fuel Cell powered vehicles but it is a small fraction compared to fossil fuel driven vehicles and machines. Change will come eventually because it must but hopefully it won't get to the point where it is cataclysmic.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

TravelAbout - that is true gas it climbing and so are water and sewer. Trust me I hear you loud and clear. Don't worry your rants are fine, were on the same page :)


Rui Carreira profile image

Rui Carreira 4 years ago from Torres Novas

Good Hub, you made an effort to explain it to the uneducated. Great Job HubBud


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Rui Carreira - thanks a bunch, did my best. The easier it is to understand the better I think :)


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from United States

An enjoyable read! The diagram was a nice touch.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

The Dirt Farmer - thanks we did our best to explain the hydrogen cell technology. I believe it is the best option to fossil fuels for sure :)


Sushma Webber profile image

Sushma Webber 4 years ago from New Zealand

My father used to talk about this a few years ago. Good article.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Sushma Webber - it is a great alternative to fossil fuel, the technology that will save the human race from themselves.


Randy M. profile image

Randy M. 4 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

Perhaps you can add something related to how much it costs to generate your own hydrogen fuel and store it. This sounds very interesting to me, but I do know that it is highly flammable.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Randy M. - perhaps I will upgrade my hub at some point, we'll see I guess. The generation of hydrogen would be done by electrolysis of water which is readily available and solar power which is also readily available. So the only real cost would be the equipment.

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