Fuel Cells

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FUEL CELLS

Fuel Cell: an electrochemical device, closely related to the battery, that can generate electricity from hydrogen, which in turn can be extracted from natural gas or other hydrocarbon gases through a chemical process called reforming.

Topics – Fuel Cells

  • Fuel Cells, Its Uses and History
  • Fuel Cell Principle, Characteristics, Operating Conditions
  • Fuel Cell Concept for Power, Heat & Water
  • Balance of Plant Equipment
  • Fuel Cell Process Diagram, Hydrogen Gas Reformation
  • Types of Fuel Cells (AFC, PAFC, PEM, MCFC, SOFC)
  • Advanced Fuel Cell Technologies (CHP, Hybrid FC-GT-IGCC)
  • Cost of Fuel Cells
  • Fuel Cell Applications, Advantages
  • Environmental Impact & Risks

History of Fuel Cel

  • Hydrolysis – if an electrical voltage is applied to water by placing two electrodes into the liquid and attaching a battery to them, the voltage induces a chemical reaction: hydrogen is produced at one electrode and oxygen at the other
  • 1839 – Sir William Grove observed that the process known as “hydrolysis” can also go backwards – hydrogen will react at one electrode and oxygen at the other producing water and an electrical voltage between the electrodes. It was only a century later that Francis Bacon began to develop practical fuel cells.
  • 1950s – Pratt and Whitney (now United Technologies) licensed Bacon’s technology and developed it for the US space program. The Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle program all used fuel cells to generate electricity and produce drinking water on-board by just bringing hydrogen fuel and oxygen with them.

Fuel Cell Principle

  • If an electrical voltage is applied on water, by placing two electrodes into the liquid and attaching a DC battery to them, the voltage induces a chemical reaction; hydrogen and oxygen is produced at each electrode:

H2O + DC voltage è H2 + O2

  • In 1839, Sir William Grove observed this process, known as hydrolysis, can also go backwards – reversible. Hydrogen will react at one electrode and oxygen at the other, producing water and DC electrical voltage between the electrodes.
  • During reverse hydrolysis, hydrogen would act at one electrode and oxygen at the other, producing water, heat and electrical voltage (DC) between the electrodes.

Fuel (H2) + O2 + platinum catalyst è H20 + DC voltage

Fuel Cell Characteristics

  • Operates as a continuous battery – continuous fueling
  • Never needs recharging
  • Based on reverse hydrolysis – converts hydrogen and oxygen into water and electricity
  • Current depends on electrode area
  • Voltage depends on materials of construction, typically less than 1 volt.

Balance of Plant Equipment

  • Power-conditioning equipment needed are expensive
  • Fuel processing comprises a large part of cost and project development.
  • The front-end processing and fuel cell technology is affected by the fuel and application: Hydrogen, Natural gas, Methanol, Gasoline, Biomass, Coal

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