Fuel Cells

by : David Tanguay

Fuel cells are simple devices, containing no moving parts and only four functional component elements: cathode, electrolyte, anode and interconnect. Fuel cells are actually being used more widely than many people think.

Fuel cells are electrochemical devices similar to batteries that directly convert chemical energy of a fuel into electrical energy and heat. They are {readmore}different from batteries in that they consume reactant, which must be replenished, while batteries store electrical energy chemically in a closed system.

Fuel cells are very useful as power sources in remote locations, such as spacecraft, remote weather stations, large parks, rural locations, and in certain military applications where conventional power may be difficult to obtain.

Although fuel cells are usually classified by their operating temperature and the type of electrolyte they use, they are not constrained by the maximum Carnot cycle efficiency as combustion engines are, because they do not operate with a thermal cycle.

There are many benefits to fuel cells, first, they are not dependent on dwindling oil supplies, running instead on hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, and second, fuel cells are much less polluting and about twice as efficient as typical steam-turbine electricity production. They are an extremely clean source of power because they combine hydrogen and oxygen the two elements that make up water, the main byproduct.

Fuel cells are no longer tomorrow's technology, the stuff of science fiction and space travel. They are used in many different applications that may not seem like a significant achievement, however the ways in which they can be used are growing every day.

Fuel cells are proof that there are smart, safe, and clean alternative power sources. It is proof that we can be self sustaining and that dependence on fossil fuels will one day soon be obsolete. Fuel cells have been referred to as continuous batteries when they are supplied with fuel as the can be sustained for a long periods of time.

Fuel cells are ideal for power generation, either connected to the electric grid to provide primary power, supplemental power or backup assurance for critical demand, or installed as a grid-independent generator for on-site power in areas that are inaccessible by power lines. They are being used in many different ways in the world today.

? Buses

? Boats

? Trains

? Planes

? Scooters

? Laptop computers

? Cell Phones

These are just a few of the things that can fuel cells can power. There are many more and still more are in development.

Fuel cells are used in many different commercial and industrial applications, and are being seriously scrutinized to become the key component of the nations plan to secure energy for the future.