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Fuel cell

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For other uses, see Fuel cell (disambiguation).

Direct-methanol fuel cell. The actual fuel cell stack is the layered cube shape in the center of the
A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts a source fuel into an electric current. It
generates electricity inside a cell through reactions between a fuel and an oxidant, triggered in
the presence of an electrolyte. The reactants flow into the cell, and the reaction products flow out
of it, while the electrolyte remains within it. Fuel cells can operate continuously as long as the
necessary reactant and oxidant flows are maintained.
Fuel cells are different from conventional electrochemical cell batteries in that they consume
reactant from an external source, which must be replenished[1] – 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 uses hydrogen as its
fuel and oxygen (usually from air) as its oxidant. Other fuels include hydrocarbons and alcohols.
Other oxidants include chlorine and chlorine dioxide.[2]

• 1 Design
○ 1.1 Proton exchange fuel cells
 1.1.1 Proton exchange membrane fuel cell design issues
○ 1.2 High temperature fuel cells
 1.2.1 SOFC
 1.2.2 MCFC
• 2 History
• 3 Types of fuel cell
• 4 Efficiency
○ 4.1 Fuel cell efficiency
○ 4.2 In practice
• 5 Fuel cell applications
○ 5.1 Power
○ 5.2 Cogeneration
○ 5.3 Hydrogen transportation and refueling
 5.3.1 Land vehicles
 5.3.2 Boats
 5.3.3 Submarines
 5.3.4 Fueling stations
○ 5.4 Other applications
○ 5.5 Market structure
• 6 Fuel cell economics
• 7 Research and development
• 8 See also
• 9 References
• 10 Further reading
• 11 External links

[edit] Design
Fuel cells come in many varieties; however, they all work in the same general manner. They are
made up of three segments which are sandwiched together: 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.
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, which breaks down the fuel into electrons and ions. The anode
catalyst is usually made up of very fine platinum powder.
• The cathode catalyst, which turns the ions into the waste chemicals like water or carbon
dioxide. The cathode catalyst is often made up of nickel.
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 interconnects)
• Mass transport loss (depletion of reactants at catalyst sites under high loads, causing rapid
loss of voltage).[3]
To deliver the desired amount of energy, the fuel cells can be combined in series and parallel
circuits, where series yields higher voltage, and parallel allows 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.
[edit] Proton exchange fuel cells
In the archetypal hydrogen–oxygen proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) design, a
proton-conducting polymer membrane, (the electrolyte), separates the anode and cathode sides.
This was called a "solid polymer electrolyte fuel cell" (SPEFC) in the early 1970s, before the
proton exchange mechanism was well-understood. (Notice that "polymer electrolyte membrane"
and "proton exchange mechanism" result in the same acronym.)
On the anode side, hydrogen diffuses to the anode catalyst where it later dissociates into protons
and electrons. These protons often react with oxidants causing them to become what is
commonly referred to as multi-facilitated proton membranes. The protons are conducted through
the membrane to the cathode, but the electrons are forced to travel in an external circuit
(supplying power) because the membrane is electrically insulating. On the cathode catalyst,
oxygen molecules react with the electrons (which have traveled through the external circuit) and
protons to form water — in this example, the only waste product, either liquid or vapor.
In addition to this pure hydrogen type, there are hydrocarbon fuels for fuel cells, including diesel,
methanol (see: direct-methanol fuel cells and indirect methanol fuel cells) and chemical
hydrides. The waste products with these types of fuel are carbon dioxide and water.
Construction of a high temperature PEMFC: Bipolar plate as electrode with in-milled gas
channel structure, fabricated from conductive plastics (enhanced with carbon nanotubes for more
conductivity); Porous carbon 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
cell ensures the collection of electric current.[4]
The materials used in fuel cells differ by type. In a typical membrane electrode assembly (MEA),
the electrode–bipolar plates are usually made of metal, nickel or carbon nanotubes, and are
coated with a catalyst (like platinum, nano iron powders or palladium) for higher efficiency.
Carbon paper separates them from the electrolyte. The electrolyte could be ceramic or a
[edit] Proton exchange membrane fuel cell design issues
• Costs. In 2002, typical fuel cell systems cost US$1000 per kilowatt of electric power
output. In 2009, the Department of Energy reported that 80-kW automotive fuel cell
system costs in volume production (projected to 500,000 units per year) are $61 per
kilowatt.[5] The goal is $35 per kilowatt. In 2008 UTC Power has 400 kW stationary fuel
cells for $1,000,000 per 400 kW installed costs. The goal is to reduce the cost in order to
compete with current market technologies including gasoline internal combustion
engines. Many companies are working on techniques to reduce cost in a variety of ways
including reducing the amount of platinum needed in each individual cell. Ballard Power
Systems have experiments with a catalyst enhanced with carbon silk which allows a 30%
reduction (1 mg/cm² to 0.7 mg/cm²) in platinum usage without reduction in performance.
Monash University, Melbourne uses PEDOT as a cathode.[7]
• The production costs of the PEM (proton exchange membrane). The Nafion membrane
currently costs $566/m². In 2005 Ballard Power Systems announced that its fuel cells will
use Solupor, a porous polyethylene film patented by DSM.[8][9]
• Water and air management[10] (in PEMFCs). In this type of fuel cell, the membrane must
be hydrated, requiring water to be evaporated at precisely the same rate that it is
produced. If water is evaporated too quickly, the membrane dries, resistance across it
increases, and eventually it will crack, creating a gas "short circuit" where hydrogen and
oxygen combine directly, generating heat that will damage the fuel cell. If the water is
evaporated too slowly, the electrodes will flood, preventing the reactants from reaching
the catalyst and stopping the reaction. Methods to manage water in cells are being
developed like electroosmotic pumps focusing on flow control. Just as in a combustion
engine, a steady ratio between the reactant and oxygen is necessary to keep the fuel cell
operating efficiently.
• Temperature management. The same temperature must be maintained throughout the cell
in order to prevent destruction of the cell through thermal loading. This is particularly
challenging as the 2H2 + O2 -> 2H2O reaction is highly exothermic, so a large quantity of
heat is generated within the fuel cell.
• Durability, service life, and special requirements for some type of cells. Stationary fuel
cell applications typically require more than 40,000 hours of reliable operation at a
temperature of -35 °C to 40 °C (-31 °F to 104 °F), while automotive fuel cells require a
5,000 hour lifespan (the equivalent of 150,000 miles) under extreme temperatures.
Current service life is 7,300 hours under cycling conditions.[11] Automotive engines must
also be able to start reliably at -30 °C (-22 °F) and have a high power to volume ratio
(typically 2.5 kW per liter).
• Limited carbon monoxide tolerance of the cathode.
[edit] High temperature fuel cells
[edit] SOFC
Main article: Solid oxide fuel cell
A solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) is extremely advantageous “because of a possibility of using a
wide variety of fuel”.[12] Unlike most other fuel cells which only use hydrogen, SOFCs can run
on hydrogen, butane, methanol, and other petroleum products. The different fuels each have their
own chemistry.
For SOFC methanol fuel cells, on the anode side, a catalyst breaks methanol and water down to
form carbon dioxide, hydrogen ions, and free electrons. The hydrogen ions meet oxide ions that
have been created on the cathode side and passed across the electrolyte to the anode side, where
they react to create water. A load connected externally between the anode and cathode completes
the electrical circuit. Below are the chemical equations for the reaction:
Anode Reaction: CH3OH + H2O + 3O= → CO2 + 3H2O + 6e-
Cathode Reaction: 3/2 O2 + 6e- → 3O=
Overall Reaction: CH3OH + 3/2 O2 → CO2 + 2H2O + electrical energy
At the anode SOFCs can use nickel or other catalysts to break apart the methanol and create
hydrogen ions and Template:CO. A solid called yttria stabilized zirconia (YSZ) is used as the
electrolyte. Like all fuel cell electrolytes YSZ is conductive to certain ions, in this case the oxide
ion (O=) allowing passage from the cathode to anode, but is non-conductive to electrons. YSZ is
a durable solid and is advantageous in large industrial systems. Although YSZ is a good ion
conductor, it only works at very high temperatures. The standard operating temperature is about
950oC.[13] Running the fuel cell at such a high temperature easily breaks down the methane and
oxygen into ions. A major disadvantage of the SOFC, as a result of the high heat, is that it
“places considerable constraints on the materials which can be used for interconnections”.[13]
Another disadvantage of running the cell at such a high temperature is that other unwanted
reactions may occur inside the fuel cell. It is common for carbon dust, graphite, to build up on
the anode, preventing the fuel from reaching the catalyst. Much research is currently being done
to find alternatives to YSZ that will carry ions at a lower temperature.
[edit] MCFC
Main article: Molten carbonate fuel cell
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 loses carbonate in the oxidation reaction, the carbonate must be replenished through
some means. This is often performed by recirculating the carbon dioxide from the oxidation
products into the cathode where it reacts with the incoming air and reforms carbonate.
Unlike proton exchange fuel cells, the catalysts in SOFCs and MCFCs are not poisoned by
carbon monoxide, due to much higher operating temperatures. Because the oxidation reaction
occurs in the anode, direct utilization of the carbon monoxide is possible. Also, steam produced
by the oxidation reaction can shift carbon monoxide and steam reform hydrocarbon fuels inside
the anode. These reactions can use the same catalysts used for the electrochemical reaction,
eliminating the need for an external fuel reformer.
MCFC can be used for reducing the CO2 emission from coal fired power plants[14] as well as gas
turbine power plants.[15]
[edit] History
Main article: Timeline of hydrogen technologies

Sketch of William Grove's 1839 fuel cell

The principle of the fuel cell was discovered by German scientist Christian Friedrich Schönbein
in 1838 and published in one of the scientific magazines of the time.[16] Based on this work, the
first fuel cell was demonstrated by Welsh scientist and barrister Sir William Robert Grove in the
February 1839 edition of the Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science[17] and later
sketched, in 1842, in the same journal.[18] The fuel cell he made used similar materials to today's
phosphoric-acid fuel cell.
In 1955, W. Thomas Grubb, a chemist working for the General Electric Company (GE), further
modified the original fuel cell design by using a sulphonated polystyrene ion-exchange
membrane as the electrolyte. Three years later another GE chemist, Leonard Niedrach, devised a
way of depositing platinum onto the membrane, which served as catalyst for the necessary
hydrogen oxidation and oxygen reduction reactions. This became known as the 'Grubb-Niedrach
fuel cell'. GE went on to develop this technology with NASA and McDonnell Aircraft, leading to
its use during Project Gemini. This was the first commercial use of a fuel cell. It wasn't until
1959 that British engineer Francis Thomas Bacon successfully developed a 5 kW stationary fuel
cell. In 1959, a team led by Harry Ihrig built a 15 kW fuel cell tractor for Allis-Chalmers which
was demonstrated across the US at state fairs. This system used potassium hydroxide as the
electrolyte and compressed hydrogen and oxygen as the reactants. Later in 1959, Bacon and his
colleagues demonstrated a practical five-kilowatt unit capable of powering a welding machine.
In the 1960s, Pratt and Whitney licensed Bacon's U.S. patents for use in the U.S. space program
to supply electricity and drinking water (hydrogen and oxygen being readily available from the
spacecraft tanks).
United Technologies Corporation's UTC Power subsidiary was the first company to manufacture
and commercialize a large, stationary fuel cell system for use as a co-generation power plant in
hospitals, universities and large office buildings. UTC Power continues to market this fuel cell as
the PureCell 200, a 200 kW system (although soon to be replaced by a 400 kW version, expected
for sale in late 2009).[19] UTC Power continues to be the sole supplier of fuel cells to NASA for
use in space vehicles, having supplied the Apollo missions,[20] and currently the Space Shuttle
program, and is developing fuel cells for automobiles, buses, and cell phone towers; the
company has demonstrated the first fuel cell capable of starting under freezing conditions with
its proton exchange membrane automotive fuel cell.
[edit] Types of fuel cell
Qualified Working Cost
Fuel cell Electrolyte power temperature Efficiency Efficiency
name (cell) (system)
(W) (°C)
Metal Aqueous 0 !> -20
hydride fuel alkaline (50% Ppeak @
/ Research
cell solution 0°C)
Electro- Aqueous
galvanic fuel alkaline 39 !< 40
/ Research
cell solution
Direct formic Polymer
49 !< 50 Commercial
acid fuel cell membrane 39 !< 40
W / Research
(DFAFC) (ionomer)
Zinc-air Mass
alkaline 39 !< 40
battery production
Microbial membrane
39 !< 40 Research
fuel cell or humic
39 !< 40 Research
fuel cell
Regenerative Commercial
membrane 49 !< 50
fuel cell / Research
Direct Aqueous
borohydride alkaline 70 Commercial
fuel cell solution
Alkaline fuel 10000 !10 65% !60– Commercial
alkaline 79 !< 80 62%
cell – 100 kW 70% / Research
Direct Polymer 0.1 !100 105 !90–120 25% !20– 15% !10– Commercial
methanol membrane mW – 1
30% 20% / Research
fuel cell (ionomer) kW
200 !250–
Reformed Polymer 300
5 !5 W – 55% !50– 33% !25– Commercial
methanol membrane (Reformer)
100 kW 60% 40% / Research
fuel cell (ionomer) 125–200
Direct- Polymer
0 !< 140 26 !> 25
ethanol fuel membrane Research
mW/cm² ? 90–120
cell (ionomer)
Proton 125 !50–120
Polymer 100 !100
exchange (Nafion) 60% !50– 40% !30– Commercial
membrane W – 500 30–35
membrane 125–220 70% 50% / Research
(ionomer) kW
fuel cell (PBI)
with redox 1000 !1
RFC - Redox shuttle and kW – 10 Research
polymer MW
40% !40%
Phosphoric phosphoric 999999 ! Commercial
175 !150-200 55% Co-Gen: 4–4.50
acid fuel cell acid < 10 MW / Research
Molten Molten 10000000
carbonate alkaline 0 !100 625 !600-650 55% 47%
/ Research
fuel cell carbonate MW
Tubular solid 99999999
conducting 975 !850- 63% !60– 57% !55– Commercial
oxide fuel cell !< 100
ceramic 1100 65% 60% / Research
ceramic fuel 700 Research
Several Commercial
carbon fuel 775 !700-850 80% 70%
different / Research
Planar Solid conducting 975 !850- 63% !60– 57% !55– Commercial
!< 100
oxide fuel cell ceramic 1100 65% 60% / Research
Any that
Enzymatic will not
39 !< 40 Research
Biofuel Cells denature
the enzyme
Magnesium- Commercial
salt water -20 !-20 - 55 90% !90%
Air Fuel Cell / Research

[edit] Efficiency
[edit] Fuel cell efficiency
The efficiency of a fuel cell is dependent on the amount of power drawn from it. Drawing more
power means drawing more current, which increases the losses in the fuel cell. As a general rule,
the more power (current) drawn, the lower the efficiency. Most losses manifest themselves as a
voltage drop in the cell, so the efficiency of a cell is almost proportional to its voltage. For this
reason, it is common to show graphs of voltage versus current (so-called polarization curves) for
fuel cells. A typical cell running at 0.7 V has an efficiency of about 50%, meaning that 50% of
the energy content of the hydrogen is converted into electrical energy; the remaining 50% will be
converted into heat. (Depending on the fuel cell system design, some fuel might leave the system
unreacted, constituting an additional loss.)
For a hydrogen cell operating at standard conditions with no reactant leaks, the efficiency is
equal to the cell voltage divided by 1.48 V, based on the enthalpy, or heating value, of the
reaction. For the same cell, the second law efficiency is equal to cell voltage divided by 1.23 V.
(This voltage varies with fuel used, and quality and temperature of the cell.) The difference
between these numbers represents the difference between the reaction's enthalpy and Gibbs free
energy. This difference always appears as heat, along with any losses in electrical conversion
Fuel cells do not operate on a thermal cycle. As such, they are not constrained, as combustion
engines are, in the same way by thermodynamic limits, such as Carnot cycle efficiency.[21] At
times this is misrepresented by saying that fuel cells are exempt from the laws of
thermodynamics, because most people think of thermodynamics in terms of combustion
processes (enthalpy of formation). The laws of thermodynamics also hold for chemical processes
(Gibbs free energy) like fuel cells, but the maximum theoretical efficiency is higher (83%
efficient at 298K [22] in the case of hydrogen/oxygen reaction) than the Otto cycle thermal
efficiency (60% for compression ratio of 10 and specific heat ratio of 1.4). Comparing limits
imposed by thermodynamics is not a good predictor of practically achievable efficiencies. Also,
if propulsion is the goal, electrical output of the fuel cell has to still be converted into mechanical
power with another efficiency drop. In reference to the exemption claim, the correct claim is that
the "limitations imposed by the second law of thermodynamics on the operation of fuel cells are
much less severe than the limitations imposed on conventional energy conversion systems".[23]
Consequently, they can have very high efficiencies in converting chemical energy to electrical
energy, especially when they are operated at low power density, and using pure hydrogen and
oxygen as reactants.
It should be underlined that fuel cell (especially high temperature) can be used as a heat source in
conventional heat engine (gas turbine system). In this case the ultra high efficiency is predicted
(above 70%).[24][25]
[edit] In practice
For a fuel cell operating on air, losses due to the air supply system must also be taken into
account. This refers to the pressurization of the air and dehumidifying it. This reduces the
efficiency significantly and brings it near to that of a compression ignition engine. Furthermore,
fuel cell efficiency decreases as load increases.
The tank-to-wheel efficiency of a fuel cell vehicle is greater than 45% at low loads [26] and shows
average values of about 36% when a driving cycle like the NEDC (New European Driving
Cycle) is used as test procedure.[27] The comparable NEDC value for a Diesel vehicle is 22%. In
2008 Honda released a fuel cell electric vehicle (the Honda FCX Clarity) with fuel stack
claiming a 60% tank-to-wheel efficiency.[28]
It is also important to take losses due to fuel production, transportation, and storage into account.
Fuel cell vehicles running on compressed hydrogen may have a power-plant-to-wheel efficiency
of 22% if the hydrogen is stored as high-pressure gas, and 17% if it is stored as liquid hydrogen.
In addition to the production losses, over 70% of US' electricity used for hydrogen production
comes from thermal power, which only has an efficiency of 33% to 48%, resulting in a net
increase in carbon dioxide production by using hydrogen in vehicles[citation needed].
Fuel cells cannot store energy like a battery, but in some applications, such as stand-alone power
plants based on discontinuous sources such as solar or wind power, they are combined with
electrolyzers and storage systems to form an energy storage system. The overall efficiency
(electricity to hydrogen and back to electricity) of such plants (known as round-trip efficiency) is
between 30 and 50%, depending on conditions.[30] While a much cheaper lead-acid battery might
return about 90%, the electrolyzer/fuel cell system can store indefinite quantities of hydrogen,
and is therefore better suited for long-term storage.
Solid-oxide fuel cells produce exothermic heat from the recombination of the oxygen and
hydrogen. The ceramic can run as hot as 800 degrees Celsius. This heat can be captured and used
to heat water in a micro combined heat and power (m-CHP) application. When the heat is
captured, total efficiency can reach 80-90% at the unit, but does not consider production and
distribution losses. CHP units are being developed today for the European home market.
[edit] Fuel cell applications

Type 212 submarine with fuel cell propulsion of the German Navy in dry dock
[edit] Power
Fuel cells are very useful as power sources in remote locations, such as spacecraft, remote
weather stations, large parks, rural locations, and in certain military applications. A fuel cell
system running on hydrogen can be compact and lightweight, and have no major moving parts.
Because fuel cells have no moving parts and do not involve combustion, in ideal conditions they
can achieve up to 99.9999% reliability.[31] This equates to around one minute of down time in a
two year period.
Since electrolyzer systems do not store fuel in themselves, but rather rely on external storage
units, they can be successfully applied in large-scale energy storage, rural areas being one
example. In this application, batteries would have to be largely oversized to meet the storage
demand, but fuel cells only need a larger storage unit (typically cheaper than an electrochemical
One such pilot program is operating on Stuart Island in Washington State. There the Stuart Island
Energy Initiative[32] has built a complete, closed-loop system: Solar panels power an electrolyzer
which makes hydrogen. The hydrogen is stored in a 500 gallon tank at 200 PSI, and runs a
ReliOn fuel cell to provide full electric back-up to the off-the-grid residence.
[edit] Cogeneration

Configuration of components in a fuel cell car.

Micro combined heat and power (MicroCHP) systems such as home fuel cells and cogeneration
for office buildings and factories are in the mass production phase. The system generates
constant electric power (selling excess power back to the grid when it is not consumed), and at
the same time produces hot air and water from the waste heat. MicroCHP is usually less than 5
kWe for a home fuel cell or small business.[33] A lower fuel-to-electricity conversion efficiency is
tolerated (typically 15-20%), because most of the energy not converted into electricity is utilized
as heat. Some heat is lost with the exhaust gas just as in a normal furnace, so the combined heat
and power efficiency is still lower than 100%, typically around 80%. In terms of exergy
however, the process is inefficient, and one could do better by maximizing the electricity
generated and then using the electricity to drive a heat pump. Phosphoric-acid fuel cells (PAFC)
comprise the largest segment of existing CHP products worldwide and can provide combined
efficiencies close to 90%[34] (35-50% electric + remainder as thermal) Molten-carbonate fuel
cells have also been installed in these applications, and solid-oxide fuel cell prototypes exist.
[edit] Hydrogen transportation and refueling
Main articles: Fuel cell vehicle, Hydrogen vehicle, Hydrogen station, and Hydrogen highway

The world's first certified Fuel Cell Boat (HYDRA), in Leipzig/Germany

Toyota FCHV PEM FC fuel cell vehicle.

Mercedes-Benz (Daimler AG) Citaro fuel cell bus on Aldwych, London.

Element One fuel cell vehicle.

Hydrogen fueling station.

Toyota's FCHV-BUS at the Expo 2005.

[edit] Land vehicles
In 2003 President George Bush proposed the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative (HFI), which was later
implemented by legislation through the 2005 Energy Policy Act and the 2006 Advanced Energy
Initiative. These aimed at further developing hydrogen fuel cells and its infrastructure
technologies with the ultimate goal to produce commercial fuel cell vehicles by 2020. By 2008,
the U.S. had contributed 1 billion dollars to this project.[35]
In May 2009, however, the Obama Administration announced that it will "cut off funds" for the
development of fuel cell hydrogen vehicles, since other vehicle technologies will lead to quicker
reduction in emissions in a shorter time. The US Secretary of Energy explained that hydrogen
vehicles "will not be practical over the next 10 to 20 years", and also mentioned the challenges
involved in the development of the required infrastructure to distribute hydrogen fuel.
Nevertheless, the U.S. government will continue to fund research related to stationary fuel cells.
The National Hydrogen Association and the U.S. Fuel Cell Council criticized this decision
arguing that "...the cuts proposed in the DOE hydrogen and fuel cell program threaten to disrupt
commercialization of a family of technologies that are showing exceptional promise and
beginning to gain market traction."[37]
There are numerous prototype or production cars and buses based on fuel cell technology being
researched or manufactured by motor car manufacturers.
The GM 1966 Electrovan was the automotive industry's first attempt at an automobile powered
by a hydrogen fuel cell. The Electrovan, which weighed more than twice as much as a normal
van, could travel up to 70 mph for 30 seconds.[27][38]
The 2001 Chrysler Natrium used its own on-board hydrogen processor. It produces hydrogen for
the fuel cell by reacting sodium borohydride fuel with Borax, both of which Chrysler claimed
were naturally occurring in great quantity in the United States.[39] The hydrogen produces electric
power in the fuel cell for near-silent operation and a range of 300 miles without impinging on
passenger space. Chrysler also developed vehicles which separated hydrogen from gasoline in
the vehicle, the purpose being to reduce emissions without relying on a nonexistent hydrogen
infrastructure and to avoid large storage tanks.[40]
In 2005 the British firm Intelligent Energy produced the first ever working hydrogen run
motorcycle called the ENV (Emission Neutral Vehicle). The motorcycle holds enough fuel to run
for four hours, and to travel 100 miles in an urban area, at a top speed of 50 miles per hour.[41] In
2004 Honda developed a fuel-cell motorcycle which utilized the Honda FC Stack.[42][43]
In 2007, the Revolve Eco-Rally (launched by HRH Prince of Wales) demonstrated several fuel
cell vehicles on British roads for the first time, driven by celebrities and dignitaries from
Brighton to London's Trafalgar Square.[citation needed] Fuel cell powered race vehicles, designed and
built by university students from around the world, competed in the world's first hydrogen race
series called the 2008 Formula Zero Championship, which began on August 22, 2008 in
Rotterdam, the Netherlands. More races are planned for 2009 and 2010. After this first race,
Greenchoice Forze from the university of Delft (The Netherlands) became leader in the
competition. Other competing teams are Element One (Detroit), HerUCLAs (LA), EUPLAtecH2
(Spain), Imperial Racing Green (London) and Zero Emission Racing Team (Leuven).
In 2008, Honda released a hydrogen vehicle, the FCX Clarity. Meanwhile there exist also other
examples of bikes[44] and bicycles[45] with a hydrogen fuel cell engine.
A few companies are conducting hydrogen fuel cell research and practical fuel cell bus trials.
Daimler AG, with thirty-six experimental units powered by Ballard Power Systems fuel cells
completing a successful three-year trial, in eleven cities, in January 2007. [46][47] There are also
fuel cell powered buses currently active or in production, such as a fleet of Thor buses with UTC
Power fuel cells in California, operated by SunLine Transit Agency.[48] The Fuel Cell Bus Club is
a global cooperative effort in trial fuel cell buses.
The first Brazilian hydrogen fuel cell bus prototype will begin operation in São Paulo during the
first semester of 2009. The hydrogen bus was manufactured in Caxias do Sul and the hydrogen
fuel will be produced in São Bernardo do Campo from water through electrolysis. The program,
called "Ônibus Brasileiro a Hidrogênio" (Brazilian Hydrogen Autobus), includes three
additional buses.[49][50]
• Airplanes
Boeing researchers and industry partners throughout Europe conducted experimental flight tests
in February 2008 of a manned airplane powered only by a fuel cell and lightweight batteries. The
Fuel Cell Demonstrator Airplane, as it was called, used a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM)
fuel cell/lithium-ion battery hybrid system to power an electric motor, which was coupled to a
conventional propeller.[51] In 2003, the world's first propeller driven airplane to be powered
entirely by a fuel cell was flown (the first fuel cell powered aircraft was the Space Shuttle). The
fuel cell was a unique FlatStackTM stack design which allowed the fuel cell to be integrated with
the aerodynamic surfaces of the plane.[52]
[edit] Boats
The world's first Fuel Cell Boat HYDRA used an AFC system with 6.5 kW net output.
[edit] Submarines
The Type 212 submarines of the German and Italian navies use fuel cells to remain submerged
for weeks without the need to surface.
[edit] Fueling stations
The first public hydrogen refueling station was opened in Reykjavík, Iceland in April 2003. This
station serves three buses built by DaimlerChrysler that are in service in the public transport net
of Reykjavík. The station produces the hydrogen it needs by itself, with an electrolyzing unit
(produced by Norsk Hydro), and does not need refilling: all that enters is electricity and water.
Royal Dutch Shell is also a partner in the project. The station has no roof, in order to allow any
leaked hydrogen to escape to the atmosphere.
The California Hydrogen Highway is an initiative by the California Governor to implement a
series of hydrogen refueling stations along that state. These stations are used to refuel hydrogen
vehicles such as fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen combustion vehicles. As of July 2007 California
had 179 fuel cell vehicles and twenty five stations were in operation,[53] and ten more stations
have been planned for assembly in California. However, there have already been three hydrogen
fueling stations decommissioned.[54]
South Carolina also has a hydrogen freeway in the works. There are currently two hydrogen
fueling stations, both in Aiken and Columbia, SC. Additional stations are expected in places
around South Carolina such as Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, and Florence. According to
the South Carolina Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Alliance, the Columbia station has a current capacity
of 120 kg a day, with future plans to develop on-site hydrogen production from electrolysis and
reformation. The Aiken station has a current capacity of 80 kg. There is extensive funding for
Hydrogen fuel cell research and infrastructure in South Carolina. The University of South
Carolina, a founding member of the South Carolina Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Alliance, received
12.5 million dollars from the United States Department of Energy for its Future Fuels Program.

Japan also has a hydrogen highway, as part of the Japan hydrogen fuel cell project. Twelve
hydrogen fueling stations have been built in 11 cities in Japan. Canada, Sweden and Norway also
have hydrogen highways implemented.
[edit] Other applications
• Providing power for base stations or cell sites[56][57]
• Off-grid power supply
• Distributed generation
• Fork Lifts
• 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 centers,[58] telecommunication[59] 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
• Electric and hybrid vehicles.
• Notebook computers for applications where AC charging may not be available for weeks
at a time.
• Portable charging docks for small electronics (e.g. a belt clip that charges your cell phone
or PDA).
• Smartphones with high power consumption due to large displays and additional features
like GPS might be equipped with micro fuel cells.
• Small heating appliances [60]
[edit] Market structure
Not all geographic markets are ready for SOFC powered m-CHP appliances. Currently, the
regions that lead the race in Distributed Generation and deployment of fuel cell m-CHP units are
the EU and Japan.[61]

[edit] Fuel cell economics

Use of hydrogen to fuel vehicles would be a critical feature of a hydrogen economy. A fuel cell
and electric motor combination is not directly limited by the Carnot efficiency of an internal
combustion engine.
Low temperature fuel cell stacks proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), direct methanol
fuel cell (DMFC) and phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC) use a platinum catalyst. Impurities create
catalyst poisoning (reducing activity and efficiency) in these low-temperature fuel cells, thus
high hydrogen purity or higher catalyst densities are required.[62] Although there are sufficient
platinum resources for future demand,[63] most predictions of platinum running out and/or
platinum prices soaring do not take into account effects of reduction in catalyst loading and
recycling. Recent research at Brookhaven National Laboratory could lead to the replacement of
platinum by a gold-palladium coating which may be less susceptible to poisoning and thereby
improve fuel cell lifetime considerably.[64] Another method would use iron and sulphur instead of
platinum. This is possible through an intermediate conversion by bacteria. This would lower the
cost of a fuel cell substantially (as the platinum in a regular fuel cell costs around $1500, and the
same amount of iron costs only around $1.50). The concept is being developed by a coalition of
the John Innes Centre and the University of Milan-Bicocca.[65]
Current targets for a transport PEM fuel cells are 0.2 g/kW Pt – which is a factor of 5 decrease
over current loadings – and recent comments from major original equipment manufacturers
(OEMs) indicate that this is possible. Recycling of fuel cells components, including platinum,
will conserve supplies. High-temperature fuel cells, including molten carbonate fuel cells
(MCFC's) and solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC's), do not use platinum as catalysts, but instead use
cheaper materials such as nickel and nickel oxide. They also do not experience catalyst
poisoning by carbon monoxide, and so they do not require high-purity hydrogen to operate. They
can use fuels with an existing and extensive infrastructure, such as natural gas, directly, without
having to first reform it externally to hydrogen and CO followed by CO removal.
[edit] Research and development
• August 2005: Georgia Institute of Technology researchers use triazole to raise the
operating temperature of PEM fuel cells from below 100 °C to over 125 °C, claiming this
will require less carbon-monoxide purification of the hydrogen fuel.[66]
• 2008 Monash University, Melbourne uses PEDOT as a cathode.[7]
• 2009 Researchers at the University of Dayton, in Ohio, have shown that arrays of
vertically grown carbon nanotubes could be used as the catalyst in fuel cells.[67]
• 2009: Y-Carbon has begun to develop a carbide-derived-carbon-based ultracapacitor with
high energy density which may lead to improvements in fuel cell technology.[68][69]
• 2009: A nickel bisdiphosphine-based catalyst for fuel cells is demonstrated.[70]
[edit] See also
Electronics portal
Energy portal
Sustainable development portal
• Bio-nano generator
• Comparison of automobile fuel technologies
• Cryptophane
• Energy development
• Fuel Cell Development Information Center
• Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative (in Europe)
• Glossary of fuel cell terms
• Grid energy storage
• Hydrogen codes and standards
• Hydrogen reformer
• Hydrogen sulfide sensor
• Hydrogen storage
• Hydrogen technologies
• Microgeneration
• Paper battery
• Renewable energy
• Water splitting
[edit] References
This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. Please help improve this article
by introducing appropriate citations to additional sources. (October 2009)

A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject. It
may require cleanup to comply with Wikipedia's content policies, particularly neutral point of
view. Please discuss further on the talk page. (October 2009)
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International. ISBN 0768012597.
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as fuel. Solid State Ionics, No. 302 pp. 343-345
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(2000) Intermediate temperature solid oxide fuel cells operated with methanol fuels. Chemical
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using a molten carbonate fuel cell. Chemical and Process Engineering 30 (2009) 341-350
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Plant By Using A Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell. Chemical and Process Engineering 29 (2008) 939-
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"Philosophical Magazine". He had conducted a series of experiments with his second invention
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18.^ Grove, William Robert "On a Gaseous Voltaic Battery", Philosophical Magazine and Journal
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Journal of Hydrogen Energy 32 (2007) 687-698
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molten carbonate fuel cell hybrid system. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, In Press
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electric vehicle concepts: a brief overview". Royal Society of Chemistry. Retrieved 2010-06-08.
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Power Sources 165: 833. doi:10.1016/j.jpowsour.2006.12.073.
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[edit] Further reading

• Vielstich, W., et al. (eds.) (2009). Handbook of fuel cells: advances in electrocatalysis,
materials, diagnostics and durability. 6 vol. Hoboken: Wiley, 2009.
• Gregor Hoogers (2003). Fuel Cell Technology – Hand Book. CRC Press.
• James Larminie and Andrew Dicks (2003). Fuel Cell Systems Explained, 2nd Edition.
John Wiley and Sons.
• High Temperature Solid Oxide Fuel Cells-Fundamentals, Design and Applications.
Elsevier. 2003.
• Frano Barbir. PEM Fuel Cells-Theory and Practice. Elsevier Academic Press.
• EG&G Technical Services, Inc. (2004). Fuel Cell Technology-Hand book, 7th Edition.
U.S. Department of Energy.
[edit] External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Fuel cell
• Fuel Cell Origins: 1840-1890
• TC 105 IEC Technical standard for Fuel Cells
• EERE: Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and Infrastructure Technologies Program
• Thermodynamics of electrolysis of water and hydrogen fuel cells
• US Fuel Cell Council
• DoITPoMS Teaching and Learning Package- "Fuel Cells"
Galvanic cells

Alkaline battery · Aluminium battery · Bunsen cell · Chromic acid cell ·

Non- Clark cell · Daniell cell · Dry cell · Grove cell · Leclanché cell ·
rechargeable: Lithium battery · Mercury battery · Nickel oxyhydroxide battery ·
primary cells Silver-oxide battery · Weston cell · Zamboni pile · Zinc-air battery ·
Zinc-carbon battery · Zinc-chloride battery

Lead-acid battery · Lead-acid battery (gel) · Lithium air battery ·

Lithium-ion battery · Lithium-ion polymer battery · Lithium iron
phosphate battery · Lithium sulfur battery · Lithium-titanate battery ·
Nickel-cadmium battery · Nickel hydrogen battery · Nickel-iron
secondary cells
battery · Nickel-metal hydride battery · Low self-discharge NiMH
battery · Nickel-zinc battery · Rechargeable alkaline battery · Sodium-
sulfur battery · Vanadium redox battery · Zinc-bromine battery

Battery · Concentration cell · Flow battery · Fuel cell · Trough battery ·

Kinds of cells
Voltaic pile

Parts of cells Anode · Catalyst · Cathode · Electrolyte · Half cell · Ions · Salt bridge
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