What Are Fuel Cells?? Are they really the Saviours of Earth?

24 May 2009, Comments: | Views: 1521 | | Category: Energy

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Fuel Cells   -- I was hearing about them from my sixth standard at school. Very fascinating indeed.. Electrolysis of Water for hydrogen and oxygen and then combining them in presence of elecrolyte to give current.. WOW!!! Thats what I was first thought .. really amazing.. People can drive on water... But yaa ofcourse it is not that simple.... Now after ten years.. just trying to see what fuell cells are and how is the research going?


How they work & Are They Worth?


Fuel Cells are electrochemical devices that generate electricity by directly converting the chemical energy associated with the oxidation of a fuel into direct current (DC) electricity. The chemical processes by which the electric current is produced are electrochemical, rather than thermochemical, in nature.So, Fuel Cells are small, mobile power plants. Since no combustion reactions are involved in these processes fuel cells do not produce any of the undesirable products normally associated with the oxidation of fossil fuels in conventional energy conversion systems. As a result, fuel cells do not emit CO2, SO2, oxides of nitrogen, or particulate matter. Thus, fuel cells are meant to be  environmentally friendly. 


Enovironmentally Friendly so it’s obvious why fuel cells are in the limelight. They’re seen as the key to a “hydrogen future,” notably as an alternative to the internal combustion engine. And given gas prices well over the common man's pocket , the threat of global warming linked to the use of oil and other fossil fuels, and growing talk oil production may peak in the years ahead, that future has suddenly taken on a shiny new allure. Various institutes and auto maker companies  are researching on fuel cells. The major problem with fuel cells is that they require Platinum or other costlier electrodes. The more the quantity of platinum required is reduced, the more economical the fuel cells will be. Scientists are experimenting with various metallurgy , nano technology techniques to reduce the amount of platinum required for unit KWH. Another problem is the storage of Hydrogen. Ofcourse if we have hydrogen then we can run our cars happily. Hydrogen is a swell fuel what with it's "zero emissions" and all. But there are no pools of ready-to-use hydrogen anywhere on this planet ... so it must be made first. Bonds must be broken, and that takes energy. Any attempt to use the created hydrogen as the power source to make more hydrogen is doomed to fail.


But it is a fact that at present they  are no where comparable to fossil fuel vehicles either in their efficiency or in their applicability. Lot more research is required.


Serious Apprehensions


Now keeping aside what are fuel cells and how they work... here is what Obama's administration has done.......

In the newly released budget, the U.S. Department of Energy cuts $100 million from the hydrogen fuel cell program in fiscal year 2010 and transforms its name to "fuel cell technologies." Hydrogen, of course, is just the fuel of a fuel cell—a device that recombines hydrogen and oxygen to produce water and electrical current. Still, the name change distances the Obama administration from the "hydrogen economy" goals of their predecessors.


"We asked ourselves, 'Is it likely in the next 10 or 15, 20 years that we will convert to a hydrogen car economy?' The answer, we felt, was 'No,'" said energy secretary Steven Chu in a briefing on the budget for reporters yesterday, citing the need for better fuel cells and a near complete lack of infrastructure.


Many skyscrapers—and even homes—have some fuel cells today(Yaa in Advanced countries like US), but the prototype cars on the road—ranging from GM's fuel cell Chevy Equinox to BMW's hydrogen-burning 7 Series sedan—have proved too expensive so far to fulfill the Bush administration's dreams of a hydrogen car economy. Of course, the Bush administration also cancelled one of the centerpieces of said hydrogen economy—the FutureGen power plant that would have generated hydrogen (as well as eliminating carbon dioxide emissions)—with what turned out to be some bad math back in February 2008. Chu also said he would resuscitate that effort—for the CO2 component.


Even the US Department of Energy also suspended the webpages on hydrogen from it's website


So is the Dream Of Hydrogen Cars and Hydrogen Economy a Big Disastrous Gimmick by Politicians(under pressure of Automakers) or is it really worth to pump in millions for it's development(so that it can stand as an environmental friendly alternative?).


It is seriously difficult to decide at this juncture... Any how many European Companies are still continuing research in Hydrogen !!!!


More will be Updated!!!

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