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Fuel Cells

A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines hydrogen, which comes from any hydrocarbon fuel such as natural gas, gasoline, diesel, or methanol, and oxygen, which comes from air around the fuel cell, to produce electricity; heat, and water, without generation of combustion emissions (ASME:B31.1),(ASME:B31.3),(ASME:B31.4),(ASME:B31.8),(ASME:B31.8S),(ASME:B31.12). The chemical reactions that take place inside the fuel cell are the following ones:

Anode Reaction: H2 —> 2 H+ + 2 e-

Cathode Reaction: ˝ O2 + 2 H+ + 2 e- —> H2O

The basic principles of a fuel cell are illustrated in figure 1

The design of fuel cell systems is complex and can vary significantly depending upon fuel cell type and application. However, most fuel cell systems consist of the following basic components:

  • Fuel Processor/Reformer
  • Electrodes
  • Electrolyte
  • Oxidant
  • Fuel Cell Stack
  • Power-Conditioning Equipment
  • Heat Recovery System

Fuel cells are generally categorized by their electrolyte. This material's characteristics determine the optimal operating temperature and the fuel used to generate electricity, and as a result, the applications for which these cells are most suitable (transport, stationary power and portable power). Each comes with its particular set of benefits and shortcomings.

The main types of fuel cells are the following ones: I would like to have more detailed descriptions of these fuel cell (stacks) understood as “components”, again this is much like a description of technology

  • Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFCs)
  • Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cells (PAFCs)
  • Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFCs)
  • Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs)
  • Alkaline Fuel Cells (AFCs)

Table 1 shows the comparison of the main fuel cell technologies:

Concerning fuel cells’s technology challenges, cost, durability and reliability are the major challenges to their commercialization. However, and according to the application, system size, weight, and thermal and water management are also additional barriers to the commercialization of fuel cell technologies.

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Page last modified on March 01, 2009, at 10:13 PM