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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 natural gas 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; however, fuel cells can produce electricity continually for as long as these inputs are supplied.
The first fuel cells were invented in 1838. The first commercial use of fuel cells came more than a century later 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 also used to power
s, including forklifts, automobiles, buses, 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 followed by the difference in startup time ranging from 1 sec for PEMFC to 10 min for SOFC. 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 in
if waste heat is captured for use.
The fuel cell market is growing, and Pike Research has estimated that the stationary fuel cell market will reach 50 GW by 2020.
from Wikipedia (last updated: 07 December), 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
Glossary of fuel cell terms
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