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24-11-2010, 07:32 AM


Fuel cells are those device, that employs the conversion of chemical energy of a fuel and an oxidant to electrical energy. The fuel and oxidant are typically stored outside of the fuel cell and transferred into the fuel cell as the reactants are consumed. The major constituents of a fuel cell systems are Fuel cell stack, Fuel processor, Current converter and Heat recovery system. Nowadays a large varieties of fuel cells are available , among those some of the important types are discussed here..

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18-02-2011, 04:14 PM

.docx   FUEL CELL.docx (Size: 25.55 KB / Downloads: 119)
An Introduction to Fuel Cells: Green Energy

A fuel cell is a device that uses hydrogen (or hydrogen-rich fuel) and oxygen to create electricity by an electrochemical process. If pure hydrogen is used as a fuel, fuel cells emit only heat and water as a by-product. Several fuel cell types are under development, and they have a variety of potential applications. Fuel cells are being developed to power passenger vehicles, commercial buildings, homes, and even small devices such as laptop computers.
What Is A Fuel Cell?
In principle, a fuel cell operates like a battery. Unlike a battery, a fuel cell does not run down or require recharging. It will produce energy in the form of electricity and heat as long as fuel is supplied.
A fuel cell consists of two electrodes sandwiched around an electrolyte. Oxygen passes over one electrode and hydrogen over the other, generating electricity, water and heat.
Hydrogen fuel is fed into the "anode" of the fuel cell. Oxygen (or air) enters the fuel cell through the cathode. Encouraged by a catalyst, the hydrogen atom splits into a proton and an electron, which take different paths to the cathode. The proton passes through the electrolyte. The electrons create a separate current that can be utilized before they return to the cathode, to be reunited with the hydrogen and oxygen in a molecule of water.
How Fuel Cells Work?
Fuel Cell Components & Function: A fuel cell is a device that uses hydrogen (or hydrogen-rich fuel) and oxygen to create electricity by an electrochemical process. A single fuel cell consists of an electrolyte sandwiched between two thin electrodes (a porous anode and cathode). While there are different fuel cell types, all work on the same principle: Hydrogen, or a hydrogen-rich fuel, is fed to the anode where a catalyst separates hydrogen's negatively charged electrons from positively charged ions (protons). At the cathode, oxygen combines with electrons and, in some cases, with species such as protons or water, resulting in water or hydroxide ions, respectively. For polymer exchange membrane (PEM) and phosphoric acid fuel cells, protons move through the electrolyte to the cathode to combine with oxygen and electrons, producing water and heat. For alkaline, molten carbonate, and solid oxide fuel cells, negative ions travel through the electrolyte to the anode where they combine with hydrogen to generate water and electrons. The electrons from the anode side of the cell cannot pass through the membrane to the positively charged cathode; they must travel around it via an electrical circuit to reach the other side of the cell. This movement of electrons is an electrical current. The amount of power produced by a fuel cell depends upon several factors, such as fuel cell type, cell size, the temperature at which it operates, and the pressure at which the gases are supplied to the cell. Still, a single fuel cell produces enough electricity for only the smallest applications. Therefore, individual fuel cells are typically combined in series into a fuel cell stack. A typical fuel cell stack may consist of hundreds of fuel cells. Direct hydrogen fuel cells produce pure water as the only emission. This water is typically released as water vapour. Fuel cells release less water vapour than internal combustion engines producing the same amount of power.
Pure Hydrogen: Most fuel cell systems are fueled with pure hydrogen gas, which is stored onboard as a compressed gas. Since hydrogen gas has a low energy density, it is difficult to store enough hydrogen to generate the same amount of power as with conventional fuels such as gasoline. This is a significant problem for fuel cell vehicles, which need to have a driving range of 300-400 miles between refueling to be competitive gasoline vehicles. High-pressure tanks and other technologies are being developed to allow larger amounts of hydrogen to be stored in tanks small enough for passenger cars and trucks. In addition to onboard storage problems, our current infrastructure for getting liquid fuel to consumers can't be used for gaseous hydrogen. New facilities and delivery systems must be built, which will require significant time and resources. Costs for large-scale deployment will be substantial.
Hydrogen-rich Fuels: Fuel cell systems can also be fueled with hydrogen-rich fuels, such as methanol, natural gas, gasoline, or gasified coal. In many fuel cell systems, these fuels are passed through onboard "reformers" that extract hydrogen from the fuel. Onboard reforming has several advantages:There are also several disadvantages to reforming hydrogen-rich fuels: Onboard reformers add to the complexity, cost, and maintenance demands of fuel cell systems.High-temperature fuel cell systems can reform fuels within the fuel cell itself-a process called internal reforming-removing the need for onboard reformers and their associated costs. Internal reforming, however, does emit carbon dioxide, just like onboard reforming. In addition, impurities in the gaseous fuel can reduce cell efficiency.
Fuel Cell Systems . Most fuel cell systems consist of four basic components:
Fuel processor : The fuel processor converts fuel into a form useable by the fuel cell. If hydrogen is fed to the system, a processor may not be required or it may only be needed to filter impurities out of the hydrogen gas. If the system is powered by a hydrogen-rich conventional fuel such as methanol, gasoline, diesel, or gasified coal, a reformer is typically used to convert hydrocarbons into a gas mixture of hydrogen and carbon compounds called "reformate." In many cases, the reformate is then sent to another reactor to remove impurities, such as carbon oxides or sulfur, before it is sent to the fuel cell stack. This prevents impurities in the gas from binding with the fuel cell catalysts. This binding process is also called "poisoning" since it reduces the efficiency and life expectancy of the fuel cell. Some fuel cells, such as molten carbonate and solid oxide fuel cells, operate at temperatures high enough that the fuel can be reformed in the fuel cell itself. This is called internal reforming. Fuel cells that use internal reforming still need traps to remove impurities from the unreformed fuel before it reaches the fuel cell. Both internal and external reforming release carbon dioxide, but less than the amount emitted by internal combustion engines, such as those used in gasoline-powered vehicles. Energy Conversion Device - The Fuel Cell Stack :The fuel cell stack is the energy conversion device. It generates electricity in the form of direct current (DC) from chemical reactions that take place in the fuel cell. The fuel cell and fuel cell stack are covered under Fuel Cell Components and Function.
Current Inverters &Conditioners: The purpose of current inverters and conditioners is to adapt the electrical current from the fuel cell to suit the electrical needs of the application, whether it is a simple electrical motor or a complex utility power grid. Fuel cells produce electricity in the form of direct current (DC). If the fuel cell is used to power equipment using AC, the direct current will have to be converted to alternating current. Both AC and DC power must be conditioned. Power conditioning includes controlling current flow (amperes), voltage, frequency, and other characteristics of the electrical current to meet the needs of the application. Conversion and conditioning reduce system efficiency only slightly, around 2 to 6 percent.
Heat Recovery System: Fuel cell systems are not primarily used to generate heat. However, since significant amounts of heat are generated by some fuel cell systems-especially those that operate at high temperatures such as solid oxide and molten carbonate systems-this excess energy can be used to produce steam or hot water or converted to electricity via a gas turbine or other technology. This increases the overall energy efficiency of the systems.
Types of Fuel Cells
Fuel cells are classified primarily by the kind of electrolyte they employ. This determines the kind of chemical reactions that take place in the cell, the kind of catalysts required, the temperature range in which the cell operates, the fuel required, and other factors. These characteristics, in turn, affect the applications for which these cells are most suitable. There are several types of fuel cells currently under development, each with its own advantages, limitations, and potential applications. A few of the most promising types include Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) Phosphoric Acid Direct Methanol Alkaline Molten Carbonate Solid Oxide Regenerative (Reversible)
Polymer Electrolyte Membrane
Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells-also called proton exchange membrane fuel cells-deliver high power density and offer the advantages of low weight and volume, compared to other fuel cells. PEM fuel cells use a solid polymer as an electrolyte and porous carbon electrodes containing a platinum catalyst. They need only hydrogen, oxygen from the air, and water to operate and do not require corrosive fluids like some fuel cells.
They are typically fueled with pure hydrogen supplied from storage tanks or onboard reformers. Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells operate at relatively low temperatures, around 80°C (176°F). Low temperature operation allows them to start quickly (less warm-up time) and results in less wear on system components, resulting in better durability. However, it requires that a noble-metal catalyst (typically platinum) be used to separate the hydrogen's electrons and protons, adding to system cost. The platinum catalyst is also extremely sensitive to CO poisoning, making it necessary to employ an additional reactor to reduce CO in the fuel gas if the hydrogen is derived from an alcohol or hydrocarbon fuel. This also adds cost. Developers are currently exploring platinum/ruthenium catalysts that are more resistant to CO. PEM fuel cells are used primarily for transportation applications and some stationary applications. Due to their fast startup time, low sensitivity to orientation, and favorable power-to-weight ratio, PEM fuel cells are particularly suitable for use in passenger vehicles, such as cars and buses. A significant barrier to using these fuel cells in vehicles is hydrogen storage. Most fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) powered by pure hydrogen must store the hydrogen onboard as a compressed gas in pressurized tanks. Due to the low energy density of hydrogen, it is difficult to store enough hydrogen onboard to allow vehicles to travel the same distance as gasoline-powered vehicles before refueling, typically 300-400 miles. Higher-density liquid fuels such as methanol, ethanol, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, and gasoline can be used for fuel, but the vehicles must have an onboard fuel processor to reform the methanol to hydrogen. This increases costs and maintenance requirements. The reformer also releases carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas), though less than that emitted from current gasoline-powered engines.
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14-03-2011, 02:44 PM

Hydrogen fuel is fed into the "anode" of the fuel cell. Oxygen (or air) enters the fuel cell through the cathode. Encouraged by a catalyst, the hydrogen atom splits into a proton and an electron, which take different paths to the cathode. The proton passes through the electrolyte. The electrons create a separate current that can be utilized before they return to the cathode, to be reunited with the hydrogen and oxygen in a molecule of water.
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12-04-2011, 11:19 AM

.doc   FUEL CELLS.doc (Size: 415 KB / Downloads: 53)
Fuel cell is a device which converts chemical energy into electrical energy just like a battery but it neither requires recharging nor it run down. Fuel cell’s construction is same as that of conventional batteries but working principle is different. Its constriction uses an anode, a cathode and an electrolyte. Hydrogen is the most commonly used fuel in fuel cells. Hydrogen atom is separated into proton and electron at anode, protons are allowed to pass through the electrolyte whereas electrons are left behind and they pass through external circuit. Oxygen is drawn out from atmosphere and it combines with electrons and protons. Forms water as by product.
There are mainly five types of fuel cells Alkali fuel cell, Molten carbonate fuel cell, phosphoric acid fuel cell, PME (Proton exchange membrane) fuel cell, solid oxide fuel cell. Each work on same principle but differ in their actions.
Fuel cells are increasingly used in automobiles. Nowadays they are replacing I.C engines because they are efficient, pollution free, high reliability, noiseless, vibration less, greater flexibility in design of vehicles.
They are also used in hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, office buildings, schools, utility power plants as UPS (uninterrupted power supply) systems as to provide backup power to avoid power crisis.
In telecommunications, with the use of computers, the Internet, and communication networks steadily increasing, Fuel cells offer a reliable source of energy. Fuel cells can replace batteries to provide power for 1kW to 5kW telecom sites without noise or emissions, and are durable, providing power in sites that are either hard to access or are subject to inclement weather. Such systems would be used to provide primary or backup power for telecom switch nodes, cell towers, and other electronic systems that would benefit from on-site, direct DC power supply.
With the increase in the research, more efficient fuel cell will come in future that have power to replace existing sources of energy. They will be commercialized soon.
What is a fuel cell?
A fuel cell is a device that generates electricity by a chemical reaction with water and heat as by-products. Every fuel cell has two electrodes, one positive and one negative, called, respectively, the anode and cathode. The reactions that produce electricity take place at the electrodes.
Every fuel cell also has an electrolyte, which carries electrically charged particles from one electrode to the other, and a catalyst, which speeds the reactions at the electrodes.
Hydrogen is the basic fuel, but fuel cells also require oxygen. One great appeal of fuel cells is that they generate electricity with very little pollution—much of the hydrogen and oxygen used in generating electricity ultimately combine to form a harmless byproduct, namely water.
How does a fuel cell work?
It operates similarly to a battery, but it does not run down nor does it require recharging. As long as fuel is supplied, a Fuel Cell will produce both energy and heat. The purpose of a fuel cell is to produce an electrical current that can be directed outside the cell to do work, such as powering an electric motor or illuminating a light bulb or a city. Because of the way electricity behaves, this current returns to the fuel cell, completing an electrical circuit. The chemical reactions that produce this current are the key to how a fuel cell works.
There are several kinds of fuel cells, and each operates a bit differently. But in general terms, hydrogen atoms enter a fuel cell at the anode where a chemical reaction strips them of their electrons. The hydrogen atoms are now “ionized,” and carry a positive electrical charge. The negatively charged electrons provide the current through wires to do work. If alternating current (AC) is needed, the DC output of the fuel cell must be routed through a conversion device called an inverter.
Oxygen enters the fuel cell at the cathode and, in some cell types, it there combines with electrons returning from the electrical circuit and hydrogen ions that have traveled through the electrolyte play a key role. It must permit only the appropriate ions to pass between the anode and cathode. If free electrons or other substances could travel through the electrolyte, they would disrupt the chemical reaction.
Whether they combine at anode or cathode, together hydrogen and oxygen form water, which drains from the cell. As long as a fuel cell is supplied with hydrogen and oxygen, it will generate electricity.
Even better, since fuel cells create electricity chemically, rather than by combustion, they are not subject to the thermodynamic laws that limit a conventional power plant. Therefore, fuel cells are more efficient in extracting energy from a fuel. Waste heat from some cells can also be harnessed, boosting system efficiency still further.
Different types of fuel cells:
1. Alkali Fuel Cell:

Alkali fuel cells operate on compressed hydrogen and oxygen and generally use a solution of potassium hydroxide in water as their electrolyte. Operating temperatures inside alkali cells are around 150 to 200 degrees C. In these cells, hydroxyl ions (OH-) migrate from the anode to the cathode. At the anode, hydrogen gas reacts with the OH- ions to produce water and release electrons. Electrons generated at the anode supply electrical power to an external circuit then return to the cathode. There the electrons react with oxygen and water to produce more hydroxyl ions that diffuse into the electrolyte.
Alkali fuel cells operate at efficiencies up to 70 percent and, like other fuel cells, create little pollution. Because they produce potable water in addition to electricity, they have been a logical choice for spacecraft. A major drawback, however, is that alkali cells need very pure hydrogen or an unwanted chemical reaction forms a solid carbonate that interferes with chemical reactions inside the cell. Since most methods of generating hydrogen from other fuels produce some carbon dioxide, this need for pure hydrogen has slowed work on alkali fuel cells in recent years. Another drawback has been the need for large amounts of a costly platinum catalyst to speed up the reaction.
NASA selected alkali fuel cells for the Space Shuttle fleet, as well as the Apollo program, mainly because of power generating efficiencies that approach 70 percent. Alkali cells also provide drinking water for the astronauts. The cells are expensive -- perhaps too expensive for commercial applications -- but several companies are examining ways to reduce costs and improve the cells' versatility. Most of these alkali fuel cells are being designed for transport applications.

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