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FUEL CELL TECHNOLOGY

BY: AHMED MOHAMED IBRAHIM SECTION:2

UNDER SUPERVISION OF :

DR. KHAIRY FAKHRY

CONTENTS
Introduction: What are Fuel Cells? ................................................................................................................................3 Overview ...................................................................................................................................................................3 How do Fuel Cells work? ...........................................................................................................................................3 Why arent Fuel Cells readily available commercially? .............................................................................................4 Common Types of Fuel Cells ..........................................................................................................................................6 Polymer exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) ................................................................................7 Solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) .....................................................................................................................7 Alkaline fuel cell (AFC) .............................................................................................................................7 Molten-carbonate fuel cell (MCFC) .........................................................................................................7 Phosphoric-acid fuel cell (PAFC) ............................................................................................................8 Direct-methanol fuel cell (DMFC) ............................................................................................................8

Well, all that is good, any disadvantages though? ......................................................................................................10 Cost ...........................................................................................................................................................10 Durability ...................................................................................................................................................10 Hydration ..................................................................................................................................................10 Delivery .....................................................................................................................................................10 Infrastructure ............................................................................................................................................10

Storage and Other Considerations ................................................................................................................11 Common Uses of Fuel Cells .........................................................................................................................................11

INTRODUCTION: WHAT ARE FUEL CELLS?


OVERVIEW
A fuel cell is an electrochemical energy conversion device. A fuel cell converts the chemicals hydrogen and oxygen into water, and in the process it produces electricity. It is very similar to the well known battery. A key difference, however, is that a fuel cell doesnt go dead; because a fuel cell has a continuous supply of chemicals, while a battery has all the chemicals stored inside it. Every fuel cell has two electrodes, one positive and one negative, called, respectively, the anode and cathode. The reactions that produce electricity take place at the electrodes. Every fuel cell also has an electrolyte, which carries electrically charged particles from one electrode to the other, and a catalyst, which speeds the reactions at the electrodes. Hydrogen is the basic fuel, but fuel cells also require oxygen. One great appeal of fuel cells is that they generate electricity with very little pollutionmuch of the hydrogen and oxygen used in generating electricity ultimately combines to form a harmless byproduct, namely water. One detail of terminology: a single fuel cell generates a tiny amount of direct current (DC) electricity. In practice, many fuel cells are usually assembled into a stack. Cell or stack, the principles are the same.

HOW DO FUEL CELLS WORK?


The purpose of a fuel cell is to produce an electrical current that can be directed outside the cell to do work, such as powering an electric motor or illuminating a light bulb or a city. Because of the way electricity behaves, this current return to the fuel cell, completing an electrical circuit. The chemical reactions that produce this current are the key to how a fuel cell works. There are several kinds of fuel cells, and each operates a bit differently. But in general terms, hydrogen atoms enter a fuel cell at the anode where a chemical reaction strips them of their electrons. The hydrogen atoms are now "ionized," and carry a positive electrical charge. The negatively charged electrons provide the current through wires to do work. If alternating current (AC) is needed, the DC output of the fuel cell must be routed through a conversion device called an inverter.

1. SIMPLE FUEL CELL

Oxygen enters the fuel cell at the cathode and, in some cell types; it there combines with electrons returning from the electrical circuit and hydrogen ions that have traveled through the electrolyte from the anode. In other cell types the oxygen picks up electrons and then travels through the electrolyte to the anode, where it combines with hydrogen ions. The electrolyte plays a key role. It must permit only the appropriate ions to pass between the anode and cathode. If free electrons or other substances could travel through the electrolyte, they would disrupt the chemical reaction. Whether they combine at anode or cathode, together hydrogen and oxygen form water, which drains from the cell. As long as a fuel cell is supplied with hydrogen and oxygen, it will generate electricity. Even better, since fuel cells create electricity chemically, rather than by combustion, they are not subject to the thermodynamic laws that limit a conventional power plant (see "Carnot Limit). Therefore, fuel cells are more efficient in extracting energy from a fuel. Waste heat from some cells can also be harnessed, boosting system efficiency still further.

WHY ARENT FUEL CELLS READILY AVAILABLE COMMERCIALLY ?


Fuel cell sure looks attractive as an alternative to diesel generators; but why arent they available on a commercial scale? The basic workings of a fuel cell may not be difficult to illustrate. But building inexpensive, efficient, reliable fuel cells is a far more complicated business.

Scientists and inventors have designed many different types and sizes of fuel cells in the search for greater efficiency, and the technical details of each kind vary. Many of the choices facing fuel cell developers are constrained by the choice of electrolyte. The design of electrodes, for example, and the materials used to make them depend on the electrolyte. Today, the main electrolyte types are alkali, molten carbonate, phosphoric acid, proton exchange membrane (PEM) and solid oxide. The first three are liquid electrolytes; the last two are solids. The type of fuel also depends on the electrolyte. Some cells need pure hydrogen, and therefore demand extra equipment such as a "reformer" to purify the fuel. Other cells can tolerate some impurities, but might need higher temperatures to run efficiently. Liquid electrolytes circulate in some cells, which require pumps. The type of electrolyte also dictates a cell's operating temperature"molten" carbonate cells run hot, just as the name implies. Each type of fuel cell has advantages and drawbacks compared to the others, and none is yet cheap and efficient enough to widely replace traditional ways of generating power, such coal-fired, hydroelectric, or even nuclear power plants.

COMMON TYPES OF FUEL CELLS


Fuel cells come in many varieties; however, they all work in the same general manner. They are made up of three adjacent segments: the anode, the electrolyte, and the cathode. Two chemical reactions occur at the interfaces of the three different segments. The net result of the two reactions is that fuel is consumed, water or carbon dioxide is created, and an electric current is created, which can be used to power electrical devices, normally referred to as the load. At the anode a catalyst oxidizes the fuel, usually hydrogen, turning the fuel into a positively charged ion and a negatively charged electron. The electrolyte is a substance specifically designed so ions can pass through it, but the electrons cannot. The freed electrons travel through a wire creating the electric current. The ions travel through the electrolyte to the cathode. Once reaching the cathode, the ions are reunited with the electrons and the two react with a third chemical, usually oxygen, to create water or carbon dioxide.

2. A BLOCK DIAGRAM OF A FUEL CELL

The most important design features in a fuel cell are: The electrolyte substance. The electrolyte substance usually defines the type of fuel cell. The fuel that is used. The most common fuel is hydrogen. The anode catalyst breaks down the fuel into electrons and ions. The anode catalyst is usually made up of very fine platinum powder. The cathode catalyst turns the ions into the waste chemicals like water or carbon dioxide. The cathode catalyst is often made up of nickel but it can also be a nanomaterial-based catalyst.

A typical fuel cell produces a voltage from 0.6 V to 0.7 V at full rated load. Voltage decreases as current increases, due to several factors:

Activation loss Ohmic loss (voltage drop due to resistance of the cell components and interconnections) Mass transport loss (depletion of reactants at catalyst sites under high loads, causing rapid loss of voltage).

To deliver the desired amount of energy, the fuel cells can be combined in series and parallel circuits to yield higher voltage and parallel-channel of configurations allow a higher current to be supplied. Such a design is called a fuel cell stack. The cell surface area can be increased, to allow stronger current from each cell. In the stack, reactant gases must be distributed uniformly over all of the cells to maximize the power output. There are several different types of fuel cells, each using a different chemistry. Fuel cells are usually classified by their operating temperature and the type of electrolyte they use. Some types of fuel cells work well for use in stationary power generation plants. Others may be useful for small portable applications or for powering cars. The main types of fuel cells include: POLYMER EXCHANGE MEMBRANE FUEL CELL (PEMFC) The Department of Energy (DOE) is focusing on the PEMFC as the most likely candidate for transportation applications. The PEMFC has a high power density and a relatively low operating temperature (ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Celsius, or 140 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit). The low operating temperature means that it doesn't take very long for the fuel cell to warm up and begin generating electricity. We?ll take a closer look at the PEMFC in the next section. SOLID OXIDE FUEL CELL (SOFC) These fuel cells are best suited for large-scale stationary power generators that could provide electricity for factories or towns. This type of fuel cell operates at very high temperatures (between 700 and 1,000 degrees Celsius). This high temperature makes reliability a problem, because parts of the fuel cell can break down after cycling on and off repeatedly. However, solid oxide fuel cells are very stable when in continuous use. In fact, the SOFC has demonstrated the longest operating life of any fuel cell under certain operating conditions. The high temperature also has an advantage: the steam produced by the fuel cell can be channeled into turbines to generate more electricity. This process is called co-generation of heat and power (CHP) and it improves the overall efficiency of the system. ALKALINE FUEL CELL (AFC) This is one of the oldest designs for fuel cells; the United States space program has used them since the 1960s. The AFC is very susceptible to contamination, so it requires pure hydrogen and oxygen. It is also very expensive, so this type of fuel cell is unlikely to be commercialized. MOLTEN-CARBONATE FUEL CELL (MCFC) Like the SOFC, these fuel cells are also best suited for large stationary power generators. They operate at 600 degrees Celsius, so they can generate steam that can be used to generate more power. They have a lower operating temperature than solid oxide fuel cells, which means they don't need such exotic materials. This makes the design a little less expensive.

PHOSPHORIC-ACID FUEL CELL (PAFC) The phosphoric-acid fuel cell has potential for use in small stationary power-generation systems. It operates at a higher temperature than polymer exchange membrane fuel cells, so it has a longer warm-up time. This makes it unsuitable for use in cars.

DIRECT-METHANOL FUEL CELL (DMFC) Methanol fuel cells are comparable to a PEMFC in regards to operating temperature, but are not as efficient. Also, the DMFC requires a relatively large amount of platinum to act as a catalyst, which makes these fuel cells expensive.

WELL, ALL THAT IS GOOD, ANY DISADVANTAGES THOUGH?


Fuel cells might be the answer to our power problems, but first scientists will have to sort out a few major issues: COST Chief among the problems associated with fuel cells is how expensive they are. Many of the component pieces of a fuel cell are costly. For PEMFC systems, proton exchange membranes, precious metal catalysts (usually platinum), gas diffusion layers, and bipolar plates make up 70 percent of a system's cost [Source: Basic Research Needs for a Hydrogen Economy]. In order to be competitively priced (compared to gasoline-powered vehicles), fuel cell systems must cost $35 per kilowatt. Currently, the projected high-volume production price is $73 per kilowatt [Source: Garland]. In particular, researchers must either decrease the amount of platinum needed to act as a catalyst or find an alternative. DURABILITY Researchers must develop PEMFC membranes that are durable and can operate at temperatures greater than 100 degrees Celsius and still function at sub-zero ambient temperatures. A 100 degrees Celsius temperature target is required in order for a fuel cell to have a higher tolerance to impurities in fuel. Because you start and stop a car relatively frequently, it is important for the membrane to remain stable under cycling conditions. Currently membranes tend to degrade while fuel cells cycle on and off, particularly as operating temperatures rise. HYDRATION Because PEMFC membranes must by hydrated in order to transfer hydrogen protons, researches must find a way to develop fuel cell systems that can continue to operate in sub-zero temperatures, low humidity environments and high operating temperatures. At around 80 degrees Celsius, hydration is lost without a high-pressure hydration system. The SOFC has a related problem with durability. Solid oxide systems have issues with material corrosion. Seal integrity is also a major concern. The cost goal for SOFC?s is less restrictive than for PEMFC systems at $400 per kilowatt, but there are no obvious means of achieving that goal due to high material costs. SOFC durability suffers after the cell repeatedly heats up to operating temperature and then cools down to room temperature. DELIVERY The Department of Energy?s Technical Plan for Fuel Cells states that the air compressor technologies currently available are not suitable for vehicle use, which makes designing a hydrogen fuel delivery system problematic. INFRASTRUCTURE In order for PEMFC vehicles to become a viable alternative for consumers, there must be a hydrogen generation and delivery infrastructure. This infrastructure might include pipelines, truck transport, fueling stations and hydrogen generation plants. The DOE hopes that

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development of a marketable vehicle model will drive the development of an infrastructure to support it. STORAGE AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS Three hundred miles is a conventional driving range (the distance you can drive in a car with a full tank of gas). In order to create a comparable result with a fuel cell vehicle, researchers must overcome hydrogen storage considerations, vehicle weight and volume, cost, and safety. While PEMFC systems have become lighter and smaller as improvements are made, they still are too large and heavy for use in standard vehicles. There are also safety concerns related to fuel cell use. Legislators will have to create new processes for first responders to follow when they must handle an incident involving a fuel cell vehicle or generator. Engineers will have to design safe, reliable hydrogen delivery systems. Researchers face considerable challenges. In the next section, we will explore why the United States and other nations are investing in research to overcome these obstacles.

COMMON USES OF FUEL CELLS


Providing power for base stations or cell sites Cogeneration Power Generation Distributed generation Emergency power systems are a type of fuel cell system, which may include lighting, generators and other apparatus, to provide backup resources in a crisis or when regular systems fail. They find uses in a wide variety of settings from residential homes to hospitals, scientific laboratories, data centres Telecommunication equipment and modern naval ships. An uninterrupted power supply (UPS) provides emergency power and, depending on the topology, provide line regulation as well to connected equipment by supplying power from a separate source when utility power is not available. Unlike a standby generator, it can provide instant protection from a momentary power interruption. Base load power plants Solar Hydrogen Fuel Cell Water Heating Hybrid vehicles, pairing the fuel cell with either an ICE or a battery. Notebook computers for applications where AC charging may not be readily available. Portable charging docks for small electronics (e.g. a belt clip that charges your cell phone or PDA). Smartphones, laptops and tablets. Small heating appliances Food preservation, achieved by exhausting the oxygen and automatically maintaining oxygen exhaustion in a shipping container, containing, for example, fresh fish. Breathalyzers, where the amount of voltage generated by a fuel cell is used to determine the concentration of fuel (alcohol) in the sample. Carbon monoxide detector, electrochemical sensor.

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