Posted by: jdavis | May 26, 2008


High cost of fuel is a major problem in various countries, third-world and firs-world countries alike. Some car owners have even thought of using public utility vehicles as an alternative instead of using their own cars because it will be less expensive. If this problem persists, I will not wonder anymore if the car industry will be greatly affected since people will be discouraged already buying cars. Why? Simply because the high cost of fuel will be eating a lot of their budget. Hence, government and private agencies, academic institutions and car manufacturers in different countries are in the process of researching and creating a car that is ran by fuel cell.


A fuel cell is said to be an electrochemical device which is used for conversion. It is able to produce electricity from the different external quantities of fuel on the anode side and an oxidant on the cathode side. This acts in response of the electrolyte’s presence. Electrolyte stays in the cell while reactants surge in and products from reaction surge out. Provided that required flows are maintained, fuel cells can continue to practically operate. In other words, fuel cell changes hydrogen and oxygen into water and in the course of the conversion, it is able to produce electricity. In comparison, fuel cells are different from batteries as it utilizes reactants which have to be replenished while batteries on the other hand store up electrical energy chemically in a closed structure. Aside from that, electrodes respond and alter as the battery is either charged or discharged while in a fuel cell it remains catalytic and fairly constant. In addition, fuel cells are able to produce electric power silently and effectively. What is more amazing is that it does it with no pollution. Why? The by-product of fuel cell is heat and water.


Fuel cells have different types such as the Polymer exchange membrane fuel cell. This type is one of the most remarkable in the fuel cell technology. It is foreseen that this will indeed end up powering cars, buses and even homes. The basic components comprising the said fuel cell are the following.  First is the anode. An anode is the cells’ negative post. It is the function of the anode to manage the electrons that are flowed from the hydrogen molecules in order to use it in an exterior circuit. Second is the cathode which possesses channels fixed into it so as to disperse oxygen to the catalyst’s surface. Aside from that, it also manages the electrons back to the catalyst from the external circuit where hydrogen ions and oxygen can be combined to form water. Third is the electrolyte. It is the proton exchange membrane. This material is somewhat similar to a regular kitchen plastic wrap; the only difference is that it handles ions which are positively charged. The last one is the catalyst. This is a special material that smooths the progress of the oxygen and hydrogen reaction.


Materials used in fuel cells vary. The electrode-bipolar plates are typically made up of metal, nickel, or carbon nanotubes which are covered with a medium which includes platinum, nano iron or palladium in order to attain high efficiency. Electrolytes are either ceramic or membrane. Fuel cells can be combined both in series and parallel circuits. A series circuit produces higher voltage while parallel circuit permits a stronger current. This design is called a fuel stack.


In my next blog, I will discuss the efficiency of fuel cells in comparison with gasoline and battery power efficiency and some of the reasons why it is beneficial to use fuel cells.


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