Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology
How Does It Work?
Much like other galvanic cells, hydrogen fuel cells operate by using two electrodes, namely the cathode and the anode. These electrodes are separated by a membrane that altogether acts as a salt bridge, maintaining the charge balance between the two.
What happens is that hydrogen and oxygen each passes through their respective electrodes. Both are ionized as they do and are converted to their ionic forms, a proton (H+) and a negatively charged oxygen ion.
Their ionization releases electrons, which flow out as electricity. The ions move through the membrane where they react to form water.
What Are Hydrogen Fuel Cells?
Technically, fuel cells are devices that utilize chemical energy stored in a fuel source and convert it to electricity. The conversion happens through a chemical reaction that commonly uses oxygen or other oxidizing agents. As its name implies, hydrogen fuel cells are fuel cells that use hydrogen as its source of chemical energy.
Fuel cell technology has been the subject of research within the past few years, until recently; it was hydrogen which was the 'pioneer fuel' that researchers came up. Hence the birth of hydrogen fuel cells.
Batteries Vs Fuel Cells
Okay, much like the batteries, so what's the difference between these fuel cells and batteries we have at home?
The operation of fuel cells are likely similar to conventional batteries, wherein chemicals stored are converted to electricity by a series of chemical reactions, specifically reduction-oxidation (RedOx) reactions.
The primary difference is that, batteries are consumable; fuel cells on the other hand are renewable. You might argue that rechargeable batteries aren't consumable, but remember this, rechargeable batteries operate by alternating electrolytic (charging state) and galvanic (discharging state) properties. During the each cycle, small amounts of chemicals are lost, hence over time; the efficiency of your battery is reduced significantly. On that basis, these batteries are technically 'consumed.'
Hydrogen fuel cells on the other hand can keep going as long as the required fuel (hydrogen and oxygen) is supplied.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells Benefits
So why pursue hydrogen fuel cells? Well enumerated below are some of the most important benefits of hydrogen fuel cells:
- Renewable Energy - So this certainly is the number one benefit. Unlike conventional engines that produce electricity, hydrogen fuel cells do not need fossil fuels or oil. All it needs is the simple element hydrogen, which is readily in the atmosphere.
- Clean Source of Energy - Yep, also unlike conventional energy sources, hydrogen fuel cells do not produce clouds of carbon dioxide and other toxic fumes that are harmful to the environment and makes global warming worse. If you would ask, what's the by-product of this power source? That would be water, yep, all clean water.
- A Way to Produce Clean Water - Did you know that NASA had used liquid hydrogen in the past to propel and operate space shuttles? Yep, and the crew even drinks the water produced by the shuttle's power system. Two birds with one stone.
There are still even more benefits to using fuel cells other than what was enumerated above. But since the price of this is still pretty much expensive than the conventional, it'll take a few more years before this technology can be used in a day-to-day basis.
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