Fuel Cell Technology

- overview & tutorial of fuel cells including where and how it is used, the various types and how they work.

Fuel cell technology is available in many forms.

However the basic concept behind fuel cell technology remains the same regardless of the actual means of realisation.

With fuel cell technology developing all the time as usage increases, new methods are being developed and introduced.


Fuel cell technology basics

There are many different forms of fuel cell technology, but they all operate in the same manner and utilise the same basic principles.

There are three basic elements to any fuel cell:

  • Anode:   In the generalised definition, the anode is the electrode through which an electric current flows into a polarized electrical device.
  • Electrolyte:   The electrolyte separates the two main electrodes and allows the ions to pass through the solution.
  • Cathode:   The generalised definition for a cathode is the electrode through which an electric current flows out of a polarized electrical device.

Within the fuel cell, two chemical reactions occur at the interfaces between the anode and electrolyte and the cathode and electrolyte. The overall result is that fuel is consumed, and electric current is generated along with by-products of water or carbon dioxide.

The reactions that occur are:

  • Anode:   At the anode a catalyst is sued to assist with the reaction that occurs there. The fuel is converted into a positively charged ion and a negatively charged electron.
  • Cathode:   The electrons flow through a wire into the load and positive ions pass through the electrolyte. When they reach the cathode the ions recombine with electrons entering the fuel cell from the load. They react with a second chemical, typically oxygen to produce water, or in some fuel cell technologies, carbon dioxide.

By Ian Poole


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