Prof. Park UTI-111 Essex County College
What Is A Fuel Cell?
In principle, a fuel cell operates like a battery. Unlike a battery, a fuel cell does not run down or require recharging. It will produce energy in the form of electricity and heat as long as fuel is supplied. A fuel cell consists of two electrodes sandwiched around an electrolyte. Oxygen passes over one electrode and hydrogen over the other, generating electricity, water and heat.
What Is A Fuel Cell?
to be reunited with the hydrogen and oxygen in a molecule of water.What Is A Fuel Cell?
Hydrogen fuel is fed into the "anode" of the fuel cell. Oxygen (or air) enters the fuel cell through the cathode. the hydrogen atom splits into a proton and an electron.
. The proton passes through the electrolyte. Encouraged by a catalyst. which take different paths to the cathode. The electrons create a separate current that can be utilized before they return to the cathode.
from natural gas to methanol.
. emissions from this type of a system would still be much smaller than emissions from the cleanest fuel combustion processes. Since the fuel cell relies on chemistry and not combustion.What Is A Fuel Cell?
A fuel cell system which includes a "fuel reformer" can utilize the hydrogen from any hydrocarbon fuel . and even gasoline.
Molten Carbonate 4. Direct Methanol 7. Microbial Fuel Cell
. Protonic Ceramic 10. Regenerative 8. Proton Exchange Membrane 3. Zinc Air 9. Phosphoric Acid 2. Alkaline 6.Types of Fuel Cells
1. Solid Oxide 5.
in hospitals. which broadens the choice of fuels they can use. landfills and waste water treatment plants. hotels. PAFCs can tolerate a CO concentration of about 1. If gasoline is used.
. Hundreds of fuel cell systems have been installed in 19 nations .and nearly 85% of the steam this fuel cell produces is used for cogeneration this compares to about 35% for the utility power grid in the United States. PAFCs generate electricity at more than 40% efficiency . utility power plants. One of the main advantages to this type of fuel cell. besides the nearly 85% cogeneration efficiency. schools.5 percent. Phosphoric acid fuel cells use liquid phosphoric acid as the electrolyte and operate at about 450°F. is that it can use impure hydrogen as fuel.Phosphoric Acid fuel cell (PAFC)
Phosphoric acid fuel cells are commercially available today. the sulfur must be removed. office buildings. nursing homes.
for buildings. Cell outputs generally range from 50 watts to 75 kW.S. such as in automobiles. "they are the primary candidates for light-duty vehicles. can vary their output quickly to meet shifts in power demand. According to the U.Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cell (PEM)
These fuel cells operate at relatively low temperatures (about 175°F). and are suited for applications. have high power density. and potentially for much smaller applications such as replacements for rechargeable batteries. Department of Energy (DOE). where quick startup is required.
." This type of fuel cell is sensitive to fuel impurities.
Molten Carbonate fuel cell (MCFC)
Molten carbonate fuel cells use an electrolyte composed of a molten carbonate salt mixture suspended in a porous.
. To date. landfill gas. carbon monoxide.approximatelly 1. and simulated coal gasification products.200ºF. They require carbon dioxide and oxygen to be delivered to the cathode. chemically inert matrix. and operate at high temperatures . propane. marine diesel. MCFCs have been operated on hydrogen. natural gas. 10 kW to 2 MW MCFCs have been tested on a variety of fuels and are primarily targeted to electric utility applications.
One type of SOFC uses an array of meter-long tubes.
.around 1800°F. non-porous ceramic compound as the electrolyte. and operate at very high temperatures . SOFCs are suitable for stationary applications as well as for auxiliary power units (APUs) used in vehicles to power electronics. and other variations include a compressed disc that resembles the top of a soup can. Tubular SOFC designs are closer to commercialization and are being produced by several companies around the world.Solid Oxide fuel cell (SOFC)
Solid oxide fuel cells use a hard.
. Alkaline fuel cells use potassium hydroxide as the electrolyte and operate at 160°F. alkaline fuel cells can achieve power generating efficiencies of up to 70 percent. They were used on the Apollo spacecraft to provide both electricity and drinking water. so require pure hydrogen and oxygen. they are very susceptible to carbon contamination. However.Alkaline fuel cell (AFC)
Long used by NASA on space missions.
in the DMFC. This is a relatively low range. Efficiencies of about 40% are expected with this type of fuel cell.Direct Methanol fuel cell (DMFC)
These cells are similar to the PEM cells in that they both use a polymer membrane as the electrolyte. making this fuel cell attractive for tiny to mid-sized applications. which would typically operate at a temperature between 120-190°F. to power cellular phones and laptops. However. Companies are also working on DMFC prototypes to be used by the military for powering electronic equipment in the field. eliminating the need for a fuel reformer. the anode catalyst itself draws the hydrogen from the liquid methanol. Higher efficiencies are achieved at higher temperatures.
heat and water. The water is then recirculated back to the solarpowered electrolyzer and the process begins again.Regenerative fuel cell
Regenerative fuel cells are attractive as a closed-loop form of power generation. These types of fuel cells are currently being researched by NASA and others worldwide. Water is separated into hydrogen and oxygen by a solar-powered electrolyzer.
. The hydrogen and oxygen are fed into the fuel cell which generates electricity.
. and some form of mechanical separators. After the oxygen has converted into hydroxyl ions and water. and reaches the zinc anode. Here. and forms zinc oxide. but the refueling is very different and shares characteristics with batteries. the hydroxyl ions will travel through an electrolyte. the combined electrical potential of these cells can be used as a source of electric power. The GDE is a permeable membrane that allows atmospheric oxygen to pass through. it reacts with the zinc. when a set of ZAFC cells are connected. a zinc anode separated by electrolyte. This process creates an electrical potential. there is a gas diffusion electrode (GDE). This electrochemical process is very similar to that of a PEM fuel cell.Zinc Air fuel cell (ZAFC)
In a typical zinc/air fuel cell.
which is a key factor that determines the running duration of a battery relative to its weight.Zinc Air fuel cell (ZAFC)
ZAFCs contain a zinc "fuel tank" and a zinc refrigerator that automatically and silently regenerates the fuel. so the battery recharging time hang up is not an issue. The key is that this reversing process takes only about 5 minutes to complete. Once fuel is used up. In this closed-loop system. creating zinc oxide. The chief advantage zinc-air technology has over other battery technologies is its high specific energy.
. electricity is created as zinc and oxygen are mixed in the presence of an electrolyte (like a PEMFC). leaving once again pure zinc fuel pellets. the system is connected to the grid and the process is reversed.
Protonic Ceramic fuel cell (PCFC)
This new type of fuel cell is based on a ceramic electrolyte material that exhibits high protonic conductivity at elevated temperatures. PCFCs share the thermal and kinetic advantages of high temperature operation at 700 degrees Celsius with molten carbonate and solid oxide fuel cells. while exhibiting all of the intrinsic benefits of proton conduction in PEM and phosphoric acid fuel cells. The high operating temperature is necessary to achieve very high electrical fuel efficiency with hydrocarbon fuels. This eliminates the intermediate step of producing hydrogen through the costly reforming process. PCFCs can operate at high temperatures and electrochemically oxidize fossil fuels directly to the anode.
Additionally.Protonic Ceramic fuel cell (PCFC)
Gaseous molecules of the hydrocarbon fuel are absorbed on the surface of the anode in the presence of water vapor.
. or liquid can't leak out as with PAFCs. with carbon dioxide as the primary reaction product. PCFCs have a solid electrolyte so the membrane cannot dry out as with PEM fuel cells. and hydrogen atoms are efficiently stripped off to be absorbed into the electrolyte.
and wastewater. and could be capable of producing over 50% efficiency. These cells are suitable for small scale applications such as potential medical devices fueled by glucose in the blood. acetate. the organic compounds are consumed (oxidized) by the bacteria or other microbes. electrons are pulled from the compound and conducted into a circuit with the help of an inorganic mediator. or larger such as water treatment plants or breweries producing organic waste that could then be used to fuel the MFCs. Some common compounds include glucose. such as 20-40 degrees Celsius. As part of the digestive process. MFCs operate well in mild conditions relative to other types of fuel cells. Enclosed in oxygen-free anodes.
.Microbial fuel cell (MFC)
Microbial fuel cells use the catalytic reaction of microorganisms such as bacteria to convert virtually any organic material into fuel.
Planes. and Boats Portable Power: campsite.Applications of Fuel Cells
Stationary: Hotel. House ± Telecommunications ± Landfills/Wastewater Treatment Plants/Breweries Transportation ± Cars. Buses. military Micro Power: Consumer Electronics
. College. and Scooters ± Forklifts/Materials Handling ± Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) ± Trains.
police stations. boats. Miniature fuel cells for cellular phones. vacuum cleaners and highway road signs. laptop computers and portable electronics are on their way to market. trains. There are fuel cell-powered vending machines. Telecommunications companies are installing fuel cells at cell phone. Wastewater treatment plants and landfills are using fuel cells to convert the methane gas they produce into electricity. Fuel cells are powering buses. and banks are all using fuel cells to provide power to their facilities. even bicycles. planes. radio and 911 towers. forklifts. all of the major automakers are working to commercialize a fuel cell car.
. credit card centers.Applications of Fuel Cells
There are many uses for fuel cells ² right now. The possibilities are endless. Hospitals. scooters.
Benefits of Fuel Cells
Low to Zero Emissions High Efficiency High Reliability/High Quality Power Fuel Flexibility Security Modularity/Scalability/Flexible Siting Lightweight/Long-lasting Battery Alternative
Fuel Cell Name
Qualified Power (W)
Working Temperature (°C) above -20 (50% Ppeak @ 0°C) under 40
Metal hydride fuel cell
Aqueous alkaline solution (e.g. potassium hydroxide) Polymer membrane (ionomer) 10 kW to 100 kW 100 mW to 1 kW
under 50 70 under 80 90±120 (Reformer)250 ±300 (PBI)125±200 above 25 ? 90±120 (Nafion)50± 120 (PBI)125±220 Cell: 50±70% System: 30±50% Cell: 60±70% System: 62% Cell: 20±30% System: 10±20% Cell: 50±60% System: 25±40%
Reformed methanol fuel cell
Polymer membrane (ionomer)
5 W to 100 kW
Direct-ethanol fuel cell
Polymer membrane (ionomer) Polymer membrane (ionomer) (e..potassium hydroxide)
Electro-galvanic fuel cell Direct formic acid fuel cell (DFAFC) Zinc-air battery Microbial fuel cell Upflow microbial fuel cell (UMFC) Regenerative fuel cell Direct borohydride fuel cell Alkaline fuel cell Direct methanol fuel cell
Aqueous alkaline solution (e.g.g.. Nafion or Polybenzimidazole fiber)
up to 140 mW/cm²
Proton exchange membrane fuel cell
100 W to 500 kW
.g.. sodium hydroxide) Aqueous alkaline solution (e. potassium hydroxide) Polymer membrane (ionomer) Aqueous alkaline solution (e..g.g.. potassium hydroxide) Polymer membrane or humic acid to 50 W
under 40 under 40 under 40 under 40
Polymer membrane (ionomer) Aqueous alkaline solution (e.
.X= Ni.g. zirconium dioxide. zirconium dioxide..Redox
1 kW to 10 MW Cell: 55% System: 40% Co-Gen: 90% Cell: 55% System: 47% Cell: 60±65% System: 55±60%
Phosphoric acid fuel cell
up to 10 MW
Molten carbonate fuel cell Tubular solid oxide fuel cell (TSOFC) Protonic ceramic fuel cell Direct carbon fuel cell
100 MW up to 100 MW
600-650 850-1100 700 700-850
Cell: 80% System: 70% Cell: 60±65% System: 55±60%
Planar Solid oxide fuel cell
up to 100 MW
Enzymatic Biofuel Cells
. Cu. sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3) O2--conducting ceramic oxide (e.
Qualified Power (W)
Working Temperature (°C)
RFC . ZrO2) H+-conducting ceramic oxide Several different O2--conducting ceramic oxide (e.Fuel Cell Name
Electrolyte Liquid electrolytes with redox shuttle & polymer membrane (Ionomer) Molten phosphoric acid (H3PO4) Molten alkaline carbonate (e. ZrO2 Lanthanum Nickel Oxide La2XO4.Co.g..) Any that will not denature the enzyme (usually aqueous buffer).g.