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Fuel cell

Fuel cell



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Published by ANUJ

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: ANUJ on Sep 02, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Fuel cell
Direct-methanol fuel cell.The actual fuel cell stack is the layered cube shape in the center of the imageA
fuel cell
is an electrochemicalconversion device. It produces electricity from fuel(on theanode  side) and an oxidant(on thecathodeside), which react in the presence of anelectrolyte. The reactants flow into the cell, and the reaction products flow out of it, while the electrolyte remains within it. Fuelcells can operate virtually continuously as long as the necessary flows are maintained.Fuel cells are different from electrochemical cell batteriesin that they consume reactant from anexternal source, which must be replenished
– a thermodynamically open system.By contrast,  batteries store electrical energy chemically and hence represent a thermodynamically closed system.Many combinations of fuels and oxidants are possible. A hydrogen fuel cell useshydrogen as its fuel andoxygen (usually from air) as its oxidant. Other fuels includehydrocarbonsandalcohols. Other  oxidants include chlorineandchlorine dioxide.
[edit] Fuel cell design
A fuel cell works bycatalysis,separating the component electronsand protons of the reactant fuel, and forcing the electrons to travel through a circuit,hence converting them to electrical power. The catalyst typically comprises a  platinum group metal or alloy. Another catalytic process puts the electrons back  in, combining them with the protons and oxidant to form waste products (typically simple compoundslike water and carbon dioxide).A typical fuel cell produces a voltage from 0.6 V to 0.7 V at full rated load. Voltage decreases ascurrent increases, due to several factors:
Ohmic loss (voltage drop due to resistance of the cell components and interconnects)
Mass transport loss (depletion of reactants at catalyst sites under high loads, causing rapid lossof voltage)
 To deliver the desired amount of energy, the fuel cells can be combined inseries and parallel circuits,  where series yields higher  voltage, and parallel allows a stronger current to be drawn. Such a design is called a
 fuel cell stack 
. Further, the cell surface area can be increased, to allow stronger  currentfrom each cell.
[edit] Proton exchange fuel cells
In the archetypal hydrogen–oxygen proton exchange membrane fuel cell(PEMFC) design, a proton-conducting polymer membrane, (theelectrolyte), separates the anodeand cathodesides. This was called a "solid polymer electrolyte fuel cell" (SPEFC) in the early 1970s, before the proton exchangemechanism was well-understood. (Notice that "polymer electrolyte membrane" and "proton exchangemechanism" result in the same acronym.) On the anode side, hydrogen diffuses to the anode catalyst where it later dissociates into protons andelectrons. These protons often react with oxidants causing them to become what is commonly referredto as multi-facilitated proton membranes (MFPM). The protons are conducted through the membraneto the cathode, but the electrons are forced to travel in an external circuit (supplying power) becausethe membrane is electrically insulating. On the cathode catalyst, oxygenmoleculesreact with theelectrons (which have traveled through the external circuit) and protons to form water — in thisexample, the only waste product, either  liquidor  vapor . In addition to this pure hydrogen type, there are hydrocarbon fuels for fuel cells, including diesel, methanol (
) and chemical hydrides. Thewaste products with these types of fuel arecarbon dioxideand water.
Construction of a high temperature PEMFC: Bipolar plate as electrodewith in-milled gas channel structure, fabricated from conductive  plastics(enhanced withcarbon nanotubesfor more conductivity); Porouscarbon papers; reactive layer, usually on the polymer membrane applied; polymer membrane. Condensation of water produced by a PEMFC on the air channel wall. The gold wire around the cellensures the collection of electric current.
The materials used in fuel cells differ by type. In a typicalmembrane electrode assembly(MEA), theelectrode–  bipolar plates are usually made of metal, nickelor carbon nanotubes, and are coated with a catalyst (like platinum,nano iron powders or  palladium
) for higher efficiency.Carbon paper separatesthem from the electrolyte. The electrolyte could beceramic or a membrane.
[edit] Oxygen ion exchange fuel cells
In asolid oxide fuel cell(SOFC) design, the anode and cathode are separated by an electrolyte that isconductive to oxygen ions but non-conductive to electrons. The electrolyte is typically made fromzirconia doped with yttria.On the cathode side, oxygen catalytically reacts with a supply of electrons to become oxygen ions,which diffuse through the electrolyte to the anode side. On the anode side, the oxygen ions react withhydrogen to form water and free electrons. A load connected externally between the anode and cathodecompletes the electrical circuit.Molten carbonate fuel cells(MCFCs) operate in a similar manner, except the electrolyte consists of liquid (molten) carbonate, which is a negative ion and an oxidizing agent. Because the electrolyte losescarbonate in the oxidation reaction, the carbonate must be replenished through some means. This isoften performed by recirculating the carbon dioxide from the oxidation products into the cathodewhere it reacts with the incoming air and reforms carbonate.Unlike proton exchange fuel cells, the catalysts in SOFCs and MCFCs are not poisoned by carbonmonoxide, due to much higher operating temperatures. Because the oxidation reaction occurs in theanode, direct utilization of the carbon monoxide is possible. Also, steam produced by the oxidationreaction canshift carbon monoxide andsteam reformhydrocarbon fuels inside the anode. These reactions can use the same catalysts used for the electrochemical reaction, eliminating the need for anexternal fuel reformer.
[edit] Proton exchange membrane fuel cell design issues
Costs. In 2002, typical fuel cell systems cost US$1000 per kilowatt of electric power output. In2008, the Department of Energy reported that fuel cell system costs in volume production are$73 per kilowatt.
The goal is $35 per kilowatt. In 2008 UTC Power has 400 kWstationary fuel cells for $1,000,000 per 400 kW installed costs. The goal is to reduce the cost in

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