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Fuel cell

Demonstration model of a direct-methanol fuel cell. The actual fuel cell stack is the layered cube shape in the center of the image 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 reacti n products o 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 [1] reactant from an external 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 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]

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: theanode, 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 electronstravel 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:
y y y y

The electrolyte substance. The electrolyte substance usually defines thetype 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:
y y y

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 inseries 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 hydrogenoxygen 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 sameacronym.) 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 arecarbon 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 electrodebipolar 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 membrane. 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 in cluding 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/cm to 0.7 mg/cm ) in platinum usage without reduction in performance.[6]Monash University, Melbourne uses PEDOT as a cathode.[7] The production costs of the PEM (proton exchange membrane). The Nafion membrane currently costs $566/m . 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.

Durabilit rvi li and special requirements for some t pe of cells. Stationary fuel cell applications typically require more t an 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 some (non-PEDOT) cathodes.



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: C

+ H2 O + 3O= 3O=

CO2 + 3H2 O + 6e-

Cathode Reaction: 3/2 O2 + 6e-

Overall Reaction: CH3OH + 3/2 O2

CO2 + 2H2 O + electrical energy

At the anode SOFCs can use nickel or other catalysts to break apart the methanol and create hydrogen ions and carbon monoxide. A solid called yttria stabili ed 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. MC C 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 monoxideis 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]

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 Schnbein 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. GE), In 1955, W. Thomas Grubb, a chemist working for the General Electric Company ( 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 c atalyst 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.

l ll El

lyte E icienc Quali ie Worki y E i ienc d p wer temperatur Status y (cell) (system) e (C) (W) Commerci al / Research Commerci al / Research Commerci al / Research Mass production Research Cost (USD/W )

> -20 Metal Aqueousalkali (50% Ppeak hydride ne solution @ 0C) fuel cell Aqueous Electroalkaline < 40 galvanic solution fuel cell Direct Polymer formic acid membrane < 50 W < 40 fuel cell (ionomer) (D A C) Aqueous Zinc-air alkaline < 40 battery solution Polymer Microbial membrane or < 40 fuel cell humic acid Upflow microbial < 40 fuel cell (UMFC) Polymer Regenerati < 50 membrane ve fuel cell

Research Commerci al /

Direct borohydrid e fuel cell Alkaline fuel cell Direct methanol fuel cell Reformed methanol fuel cell Directethanol fuel cell Proton exchange membrane fuel cell

(ionomer) Aqueous alkaline solution Aqueous alkaline solution Polymer membrane (ionomer) Polymer membrane (ionomer) Polymer membrane (ionomer) Polymer membrane (ionomer)

Research 70 10 100 kW 100 mW 1 kW Commerci al Commerci al / Research Commerci 2030% 1020% al / Research 6070% 62%

< 80


250300 Commerci 5 W (Reformer) 5060% 2540% al / 100 kW 125200 Research (PBI) < 140 > 25 mW/cm ? 90120 100 W 500 kW 50120 (Nafion) 125220 (PBI) Research Commerci al / 3035 Research

5070% 3050%

RFC Redox

Phosphoric acid fuel cell Molten carbonate fuel cell Tubular solid oxide fuel cell (TSOFC) Protonic ceramic fuel cell Direct carbon fuel cell Planar Solid oxide fuel cell

Liquid electrolytes with redox 1 kW shuttle and 10 MW polymer membrane (Ionomer) Molten < 10 phosphoric MW acid (H3PO4) Molten 100 MW alkaline carbonate O2--conducting < 100 ceramic oxide MW H+-conducting ceramic oxide Several different O2--conducting < 100 ceramic oxide MW






40% Commerci Co-Gen: al / 44.50 90% Research Commerci 47% al / Research Commerci al / Research Research


6065% 5560%




Commerci al / Research Commerci 6065% 5560% al / Research 80% 70%

Enzymatic Any that will not denature Biofuel the enzyme Cells Magnesium salt water -Air Fuel Cell

< 40

Research Commerci al / Research

-20 - 55


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 efficiency. Fuel cells are not heat engines and so the Carnot cycle efficiency is not relevant to the thermodynamic efficiency of fuel cells.[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 "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]

In ractice
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 likethe 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 p ower-plant-towheel efficiency of 22% if the hydrogen is stored as high -pressure gas, and 17% if it is stored as liquid hydrogen.[29] 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]. However, more than 90% of all hydrogen is produced by steam methane reforming.[30] Fuel cells cannot store energy like a battery, but in some applications, such as stand -alone power plants based on discontinuous sources such assolar 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 asroundtrip efficiency) is between 30 and 50%, depending on conditions.[31] 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.

Fuel cell a


Type 212 submarine with fuel cell propulsion of the German Navy in dry dock

Po er

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.[32] 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 device). One such pilot program is operating on Stuart Island in Washington State. There the Stuart Island Energy Initiative[33] 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.


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. Thesystem 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.[34] A lower fuel-toelectricity 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 aheat pump. Phosphoric-acid fuel cells (PAFC) comprise the largest segment of existing CHP [35] products worldwide and can provide combined efficiencies close to 90% (35-50% electric + remainder as thermal) Molten-carbonate fuel cells have also been installed in these applications, and solid-oxide fuel cell prototypes exist.

Hydrogen trans ortation 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 FCHVPEM 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. Land ehicles 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 2006Advanced 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.[36] 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 tostationary fuel cells.[37] 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 di rupt commerciali ation of a famil of technologies that are showing exceptional promise and beginning to gain market traction."[38] 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][39] 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.[40] 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.[41] 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.[42] In 2004 Honda developed a fuel-cell motorcycle which utilized the Honda FC Stack.[43][44] 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, GreenchoiceForze 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 FC Clarity. Meanwhile there exist also other examples of bikes[45] and bicycles[46] 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. [47][48] 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.[49] The Fuel Cell Bus Club is a global cooperative effort in trial fuel cell buses. The first Brazilianhydrogen fuel cell bus prototype will begin operation in So Paulo during the first semester of 2009. The hydrogen bus was manufactured in Caxias do Sul and the hydrogen fuel will be produced in So Bernardo do Campo from water through electrolysis. The program, called "nibusBrasileiro a Hidrognio" (Brazilian Hydrogen Autobus), includes three additional buses.[50][51]

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.[52] In 2003, the world's first propeller driven airplane to be powered entirely by a fuel cell was flown. The fuel cell was a unique FlatStackTM stack design which allowed the fuel cell to be integrated with the aerodynamic surfaces of the plane.[53] Boats The world's first Fuel Cell Boat HYDRA used an AFC system with 6.5 kW net output. Submarines The Type 212 submarines of the German and Italian navies use fuel cells to remain submerged for weeks without the need to surface. Fueling stations The first public hydrogen refueling station was opened in Reykjavk, Iceland in April 2003. This station serves three buses built by DaimlerChrysler that are in service in the public transport net of Reykjavk. 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 in operation,[54] and ten more stations have been planned for assembly in California. However, there have already been three hydrogen fueling stations decommissioned.[55] 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.[56] 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.

Other applications
y y y y y

y y y y y y y

Providing power for base stations or cell sites[57][58] 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,[59]telecommunication[60] 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 [61] Space Shuttles

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.[62]

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 platinumcatalyst. Impurities create catalyst poisoning (reducing activity and efficiency) in these lowtemperature fuel cells, thus high hydrogen purity or higher catalyst densities are required.[63] Although there are sufficient platinum resources for future demand,[64] 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. [65] 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 theJohn Innes Centre and the University of Milan-Bicocca.[66]PEDOT cathodes are immune to monoxide poisoning.[67] 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.

Proton exchange membrane fuel cell

Diagram of a PEM fuel cell Proton exchange membrane fuel cells, also known as polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells (PEMFC), are a type of fuel cell being developed for transport applications as well as for stationary fuel cell applications and portable fuel cell applications. Their distinguishing

features include lower temperature/pressure ranges (50 to 100 C) and a special polymerelectrolytemembrane.

For more details on this topic, see Fuel cell. A proton exchange membrane fuel cell transforms the chemical energy liberated during the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen to electrical energy, as opposed to the direct combustion of hydrogen and oxygen gases to produce thermal energy. A stream of hydrogen is delivered to the anode side of the membrane electrode assembly (MEA). At the anode side it is catalytically split into protons and electrons. This oxidation half-cell reaction is represented by: t the node:

The newly formed protons permeate through the polymer electrolyte membrane to the cathode side. The electrons travel along an external load circuit to the cathode side of the MEA, thus creating the current output of the fuel cell. Meanwhile, a stream of oxygen is delivered to the cathode side of the MEA. At the cathode side oxygen molecules react with the protons permeating through the polymer electrolyte membrane and the electrons arriving through the external circuit to form water molecules. This reduction half-cell reaction is represented by: t the Cathode:


erall reaction:


Polymer electrolyte membrane

To function, the membrane must conduct hydrogen ions (protons) but not electrons as this would in effect "short circuit" the fuel cell. The membrane must also not allow either gas to pass to the other side of the cell, a problem known as gas crosso er. Finally, the membrane must be resistant to the reducing environment at the cathode as well as the harsh oxidative environment at the anode. Splitting of the hydrogen molecule is relatively easy by using a platinum catalyst. Unfortunately however, splitting the oxygen molecule is more difficult, and this causes significant electric losses. An appropriate catalyst material for this process has not been discovered, and platinum is the best option. One promising catalyst that uses far less expensive materialsiron, nitrogen, and carbonhas long been known to promote the necessary reactions, but at rates that are far too slow to be practical. Recently researchers at the Institut National de la RechercheScientifique (INRS) in Quebec have dramatically increased the performance of this type of iron-based catalyst. Their material produces 99 [citation needed] . amperes per cubic centimeter at 0.8 volts, a key measurement of catalytic activity That is 35 times better than the best nonprecious metal catalyst so far, and close to the Department of Energy's goal for fuel-cell catalysts: 130 A/cm3.[1]. It also matches the performance of typical platinum catalysts. The only problem at the moment is its durability because after only 100 hours of testing the reaction rate dropped to half. Another significant source of losses is the resistance of the membrane to proton flow, which is minimized by making it as thin as possible, on the order of 50 m. The PEMFC is a prime candidate for vehicle and other mobile applications of all sizes down to mobile phones, because of its compactness. However, the water management is crucial to performance: too much water will flood the membrane, too little will dry it; in both cases, power output will drop. Water management is a very difficult subject in PEM systems, primarily because water in the membrane is attracted toward the cathode of the cell through polarization. A wide variety of solutions for managing the water exist including integration of electroosmotic pumps. Furthermore, the platinum catalyst on the membrane is easily poisoned by carbon monoxide (no more than one part per million is usually acceptable) and the membrane is sensitive to things like metal ions, which can be introduced by corrosion o f metallic bipolar plates, metallic components in the fuel cell system or from contaminants in the fuel/oxidant.

PEM systems that use reformed methanol were proposed, as in Daimler Chrysler Necar 5; reforming methanol, i.e. making it react to obtain hydrogen, is however a very complicated process, that requires also purification from the carbon monoxide the reaction produces. A platinum-ruthenium catalyst is necessary as some carbon monoxide will unavoidably reach the membrane. The level should not exceed 10 parts per million. Furthermore, the start-up times of such a reformer reactor are of about half an hour. Alternatively, methanol, and some other biofuels can be fed to a PEM fuel cell directly without being reformed, thus making a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC). These devices operate with limited success. The most commonly used membrane is Nafion by DuPont, which relies on liquid water humidification of the membrane to transport protons. This implies that it is not feasible to use temperatures above 80 to 90 C, since the membrane would dry. Other, more recent membrane types, based on Polybenzimidazole (PBI) OR phosphoric acid, can reach up to 220 C without using any water management: higher temperature allow for better efficiencies, power densities, ease of cooling (because of larger allowable temperature differences), reduced sensitivity to carbon monoxide poisoning and better controllability (because of absence of water management issues in the membrane); however, these recent types are not as common.[2]. Efficiencies of PEMs are in the range of 4060% higher heating value of hydrogen (HHV).

Catalyst research
Much of the current research on catalysts for PEM fuel cells can be classified as having one of two main objectives: 1) to obtain higher catalytic activity than the standard carbon-supported platinum particle catalysts used in current PEM fuel cells or 2) to reduce the poisoning of PEM fuel cell catalysts by impurity gases. Examples of these two approaches are given in the following sections. 1) Increasing catalytic activity As mentioned above, platinum is by far the most effective element used for PEM fuel cell catalysts, and nearly all current PEM fuel cells use platinum particles on porous carbon supports to catalyze both hydrogen oxidation and oxygen reduction. However, due to their high cost, current Pt/C catalysts are not feasible for commercialization. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that platinum-based catalysts will need to use roughly four times less platinum than is used in current PEM fuel cell designs in order to represent a realistic alternative to internal combustion engines.[3] Consequently, one main goal of catalyst design for PEM fuel cells is to increase the catalytic activity of platinum by a factor of four so that only one-fourth as much of the precious metal is necessary to achieve similar performance. One method of increasing the performance of platinum catalysts is to optimize the size and shape of the platinum particles. Decreasing the particles size alone increases the total surface area of catalyst available to participate in reactions per volume of platinum used, but recent studies have demonstrated additional ways to make further improvements to catalytic

performance. For example, one study reports that high-index facets of platinum nanoparticles (that is Miller indexes with large integers, such as Pt (730)) provide a greater density of reactive sites for oxygen reduction than typical platinum nanoparticles.[4] A second method of increasing the catalytic activity of platinum is to alloy it with other metals. For example, it was recently shown that the Pt3Ni(111) surface has a higher oxygen reduction activity than pure Pt(111) by a factor of ten.[5] The authors attribute this dramatic performance increase to modifications to the electronic structure of the surface, reducing its tendency to bond to oxygen-containing ionic species present in PEM fuel cells and hence increasing the number of available sites for oxygen adsorption and reduction. 2) Reducing poisoning The other popular approach to improving catalyst performance is to reduce its sensitivity to impurities in the fuel source, especially carbon monoxide (CO). Presently, pure hydrogen gas is not economical to mass-produce by electrolysis or any other means. Instead, hydrogen gas is produced by steam reforming light hydrocarbons, a process which produces a mixture of gasses that also contains CO (13%), CO2 (1925%), and N2 (25%).[6] Even tens of parts per million of CO can poison a pure platinum catalyst, so increasing platinums resistance to CO is an active area of research. For example, one study reported that cube-shaped platinum nanoparticles with (100) faces displayed a fourfold increase in oxygen reduction activity compared to randomly faceted platinum nanoparticles of similar size.[7] The authors concluded that the (111) facets of the randomly shaped nanoparticles bonded more strongly to sulfate ions than the (100) facets, reducing the number of catalytic sites open to oxygen molecules. The nanocubes they synthesized, in contrast, had almost exclusively (100) facets, which are known to interact withsulfate more weakly. As a result, a greater fraction of the surface area of those particles was available for the reduction of oxygen, boosting the catalysts oxygen reduction activity. In addition, researchers have been investigating ways of reducing the CO content of hydrogen fuel before it enters a fuel cell as a possible way to avoid poisoning the catalysts. One recent study revealed that ruthenium-platinum core-shell nanoparticles are particularly effective at oxidizing CO to form CO2, a much less harmful fuel contaminant.[8] The mechanism that produces this effect is conceptually similar to that described for Pt3Ni above: the ruthenium core of the particle alters the electronic structure of the platinum surface, rendering it better able to catalyze the oxidation of CO.

Before the invention of PEM fuel cells, existing fuel cell types such as solid-oxide fuel cells were only applied in extreme conditions. Such fuel cells also required very expensive materials and could only be used for stationary applications due to their size. These issues were addressed by the PEM fuel cell. The PEM fuel cell was invented in the early 1960s by Willard Thomas Grubb and Leonard Niedrach of General Electric.[9] Initially, sulfonated polystyrene membranes were used for electrolytes, but they were replaced in 1966 by Nafionionomer, which proved to be superior in performance and durability to sulfonated polystyrene.

PEM fuel cells were used in the NASAGemini series of spacecraft, but they were replaced by Alkaline fuel cells in the Apollo program and in the Space shuttle. Parallel with Pratt and Whitney Aircraft, General Electric developed the first proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) for the Gemini space missions in the early 1960s. The first mission to utilize PEMFCs was Gemini V. However, the Apollo space missions and subsequent Apollo-Soyuz, Skylab and Space Shuttle missions utilized fuel cells based on Bacon's design, developed by Pratt and Whitney Aircraft. Extremely expensive materials were used and the fuel cells required very pure hydrogen and oxygen. Early fuel cells tended to require inconveniently high operating temperatures that were a problem in many applications. However, fuel cells were seen to be desirable due to the large amounts of fuel available (hydrogen and oxygen).[citation needed] Despite their success in space programs, fuel cell systems were limited to space missions and other special applications, where high cost could be tolerated. It was not until the late 1980s and early 1990s that fuel cells became a real option for wider application base. Several pivotal innovations, such as low platinum catalyst loading and thin film electrodes, drove the cost of fuel cells down, making development of PEMFC systems more realistic. However, there is significant debate as to whether hydrogen fuel cells will be a realistic technology for use in automobiles or other vehicles. (See hydrogen economy.)[citation needed ]