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- Created 2012-02-18
is a device that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent.
is the most common fuel, but hydrocarbons such as
and alcohols like
are sometimes used. Fuel cells are different from
in that they require a constant source of fuel and oxygen/air to sustain the chemical reaction, they can however produce electricity continually for as long as these inputs are supplied.
In 1838, German Physicist
Christian Friedrich Schönbein
invented the first crude fuel cell. A year later Welsh Physicist
developed his first crude fuel cells in 1839. The first commercial use of fuel cells was in
space programs to generate power for probes, satellites and space capsules. Since then, fuel cells have been used in many other applications. Fuel cells are used for primary and backup power for commercial, industrial and residential buildings and in remote or inaccessible areas. They are used to power fuel cell vehicles, including automobiles, buses, forklifts, airplanes, boats, motorcycles and submarines.
There are many types of fuel cells, but they all consist of an
(negative side), a
(positive side) and an
that allows charges to move between the two sides of the fuel cell. Electrons are drawn from the anode to the cathode through an external circuit, producing
electricity. As the main difference among fuel cell types is the electrolyte, fuel cells are classified by the type of
they use. Fuel cells come in a variety of sizes. Individual fuel cells produce relatively small electrical potentials, about 0.7 volts, so cells are "stacked", or placed in series, to increase the voltage and meet an application's requirements. In addition to electricity, fuel cells produce water, heat and, depending on the fuel source, very small amounts of
and other emissions. The energy efficiency of a fuel cell is generally between 40–60%, or up to 85% efficient if waste heat is captured for use.
The fuel cell market is also growing at a healthy pace and according to Pike Research, the stationary fuel cell market is predicted to reach 50 GW by 2020.
from Wikipedia (last updated: 25 May), licensed under
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Animation how a fuel cell works and applications
Fuel Cell Origins: 1840-1890
EERE: Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and Infrastructure Technologies Program
Thermodynamics of electrolysis of water and hydrogen fuel cells
2002-PORTABLE POWER APPLICATIONS OF FUEL CELLS
US Fuel Cell Council
DoITPoMS Teaching and Learning Package- "Fuel Cells"
Animation how a fuel cell works
Make your own hydrogen fuel cell
Grid energy storage
Glossary of fuel cell terms
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