Hydrogen Fuel Cell


The benefits of using a hydrogen fuel cell to produce electricity are enormous.

Hydrogen fuel cells are predicted to be one of the fuels of the future. With only requiring water and electricity to produce hydrogen gas for a fuel cell to burn, it makes it a strong candidate to replace fuels such as LPG and petrol.

Not to mention it can be used not only in vehicles but homes and businesses as well. The hydrogen fuel cell itself only produces water as a by-product making it carbon neutral, and then this water can then be used to make hydrogen gas once more.

The first fuel cell was invented by Sir William Grove in 1839. He knew water could be split into hydrogen and oxygen by sending an electric current through it, a process called electrolysis. Grove hypothesized that by reversing the process you could produce electricity, water and heat. He later proved his hypothesis by creating what he termed a gas voltaic battery. Fifty years later, scientist Ludwig Mond and Charles Langer coined the term fuel cell.

The PEM fuel cell uses one of the simplest reactions of any fuel cell, which in turn makes it the most promising for use in houses or vehicles. The reaction starts with an influx of pressurised hydrogen gas that is evenly distributed to the anode or negative terminal. When the H2 gas is forced through the catalyst (made of platinum) its hydrogen molecules split into 2 positively charged hydrogen ions and 2 negatively charged electrons. While the hydrogen ions travel through the electrolyte, the electrons are conducted through the anode and make their way via an external circuit to the load – whether it be a light, a vehicle or a house, after which they are collected at the cathode.

For a commercially viable option a typical system will contains; water tank, hydrogen tank, electrolyser (produces hydrogen gas for fuel cell), fuel cell and inverter. It is important to note that hydrogen requires batteries. The batteries are used to deal with peak instantaneous loads that fall outside the fuel cells power range. In addition, using hydrogen as storage solution will cost about the same as a lithium battery bank of similar size. This is taking into account the life cycle of the lithium batteries (2,700 cycles) compared with the hydrogen fuel cell solution (10,000 cycles).

It is estimated that the cost of hydrogen will dramatically reduce with time. Similar to solar panels, batteries and other emerging green energy initiatives. Hydrogen is set to follow a similar path. So by the time a particular user finishes their last cycle in ten years’ time, a new and far more improved solution will replace it, with expected life of possibly twice its predecessor. All in all hydrogen fuel cells are set to compete with all the other forms of energy production and here at Greenwood Solutions we can’t wait for future developments.

If you’d like to find out more about how a hydrogen fuel cell might assist your renewable energy goals, contact Greenwood Solutions today.

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