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Introduction

This is a project which deals with the concept of fuel cell technology . Fuel has become an
indispensable resource in the present time . But due to increasing environmental problems , the
use of conventional fuels needs to be done away with, requiring of us to come up with an
alternative source of fuel . Such an alternative source are the fuel cells.

Fuel Cell
Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that produce electricity and heat from a fuel (often
hydrogen) and oxygen. Unlike conventional engines, they do this without burning the fuel and
are therefore generally cleaner and more efficient.

TYPES OF FUEL CELLS


1.
2.
3.
4.

PHOSPHORIC ACID FUEL CELLS


ALKALINE FUEL CELLS
PROTON EXCHANGE MEMBRANE FUEL CELLS
MOLTEN CARBONATE FUEL CELLS

Literature Review
Fuel cells although is a new concept, but their foundations, to be used as a modern and clean
technology, were laid as early as in the 18th century. In a fuel cell, the anode oxidises the
Hydrogen molecules to protons. At the cathode, the entering oxygen molecule gets reduced by
the protons to form water molecules. During this entire operation, the only product formed is
water, along with some residual air that came in along with the oxygen being used for the cell
operation. In addition to water, some heat is released too. Thus, this type of cell produces a
current, releases heat, and all this on the expense of some fuel (mainly Hydrogen) and air to
release just water !
It was Sir William Grove, who first found out that it was possible to generate electricity from
water, but the amount of energy liberated wasnt practical. About 50 years later, in 1889, two
scientists, Ludwig Mond and Charles Langer gave the fuel cell its name. In another 50 years,
Francis Bacon stepped forward to revolutionize the fuel cell technology. His fuel cells changed
the old ones in many ways. Before, they required platinum electrodes: Bacon managed to use
alkaline as an electrolyte, and nickel as the electrode. This variation was much cheaper, and
easier to find. It was also more efficient: they could operate under pressures as high as 3000
psi.
There is a variety of fuel cells that are being processed nowadays. Some of which are, alkali
fuel cells, molten carbonate fuel cells and proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEM). Alkali is
the most common one; it consists of using hydrogen and hydroxyl ions to create electricity, and

end up with potable water. The next type is molten carbonate. The electrolyte used in the cell is
a carbonate salt. However, these ones tend to be slightly inefficient: they have to be melted
before they can be used. Having a liquid electrolyte can be difficult to handle, and timeconsuming.
Finally, there is the PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) fuel cell. The electrolyte for this type is a
polymer sheet that is very thin. Unfortunately, this type can be expensive; a platinum catalyst
must be used. Also, a temperature of 80 C is needed (this may seem like a high temperature,
but is quite low when compared with the molten carbonate one). Once again, this fuel cell
requires hydrogen atoms, which are stripped from their electrons at the anode. These electrons
pass through an exterior circuit, which creates electricity, and meet back at the end, combine
with the air, and create water.

Advantages :
Alkali Fuel Cell - Cheapest of fuel cells to manufacture.
Catalysts are inexpensive
Bi-polar plate version of this technology-superior in performance.
The world's first Fuel Cell Ship HYDRA used an AFC system with
5 kW net output.

Phosphorous - CO2-tolerant and even can tolerate a CO concentration of about 1.5%


Acid Fuel Cells
The high operational temperature allows the efficient utilization of heat.

Molten
- not prone to poisoning by carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide
Carbonate Fuel
Cells
fuel efficiencies can be as high as 85%
don't require an external reformer to convert more energy-dense fuels to
Hydrogen.

Proton
Chicago
Exchange
Cells

- In 1995, Ballard Systems tested PEM cells in buses in Vancouver and


and later in experimental vehicles made by DaimlerChrysler.
PEM cells have also supplied power to unmanned blimps called aerostats

and

to sonobuoys, which are nautical buoys that generate and receive sonar
signal
Major automakers like Ford and Volkswagen are also testing PEM vehicles.

Ever since it was introduced, extensive research and designing have been implemented on the
very topic. To this date, work is currently being carried out on this field to develop fuel cells, and
not just develop them but to commercialise the same, so that this clean technology can be used
by the masses as their move to build a cleaner and sustainable environment.

Startups and Recently carried out Work :


The main difficulty in commercialising the fuel cell is its price rating per unit watt of power
delivered. At present, in order to generate a kilowatt power output from the cell, it would cost
around $61. The main implementation of fuel cells is to be carried out on automobiles. In doing
so, it would increase the cost of the vehicle by a handsome amount of $6100. Such numbers
make the dream of a hydrogen fuel run vehicle at affordable prices, far from reality. Thus the
commercialising of a fuel cell depends upon how much the cost of the cell can be reduced so
that it fits the pockets of the masses. Its then R&D companies and startups that come into play
to reduce the cost of the cell and help in commercialising the same. Some of them are listed
below.

ClearEdge Power: The Hillsboro, Ore.-based startup has spent 7 years developing a stationary
fuel cell that runs on natural gas or propane, aimed at providing both
electricity
and heat to homes and small businesses.

Neah Power Systems: Neah says it has replaced traditional proton exchange membrane (PEM)
technology with a more reliable, longer-lived silicon-based design, and
while its concentrating on portable applications, it has also identified the
stationary backup power market as a potential target.

ACAL Energy: This U.K.-based startup makes membrane exchange fuel cells with cathodes that
use about one-fifth the platinum of traditional membrane fuel cells a bonus,
given the high cost of that precious metal and is targeting the stationary
power
market as well as automotive applications.

CellEra: This Israeli startup is also working on a stationary fuel cell that does away with
platinum,
with the aim of cutting costs by up to 70 percent compared to platinum-using fuel cells.
It
is developed proprietary electrode technology and is working to develop its platinum
free
Catalysts.
Intelligent Energy: This London-based maker of hydrogen-powered fuel cells has also focused
its
efforts on automotive applications, for fuel cell scooters and fuel celled cabs.

EnStorage: This Israeli startup is aiming its sights on regenerative fuel cells to help the power
grid
load balance and firm up intermittent solar and wind power generation.

Closing Remarks
Although all this might seem to be alot of work done on this particular field, but it is far from over.
According to the US Department of Energy, $31 per kilowatt is the standard cost of the fuel cell
that has to be attained rather than the present cost of $61. There is to be done a reduction of
almost half the present cost ! Clearly it hints that the work on fuel cells will go on a long way
before completion, from this point of time. Inventing new materials for the plates, discovering
new types of electrolytes that could generate high wattages at cheaper rates are the only key in
order to commercialise the fuel cell, but it will take long period of time and some revolutionising
discoveries before that happens.