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Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that combine hydrogen and oxygen in order to produce electricity.

During the power generation cycle, water and heat are produced as a by-products. This is a far more ideal byproduct than the unclean emissions which are created by other methods of generating electricity.

They will operate and generate power so long as fuel is supplied. Since the conversion of the fuel to energy takes place via an electrochemical process, and not by combustion, the process is clean, quiet, and highly efficient – two to three times more efficient than regular combustion, such as that done by gasoline in a generator.

Fuel cell technology is unique as a power technology – no other energy generation technology offers the combination of benefits that these devices do. In addition to producing extremely low or zero emissions (depending on the type used), some of their main benefits include:

  • Scalability
  • High efficiency and reliability
  • Durability
  • Ease of maintenance
  • Multi-fuel capability

Since they generate power through a chemical process, they operate silently. Thus, they reduce noise pollution, as well as air pollution. Heat generated by the cells, in the process of generating electricity can be captured and used to provide hot water or space heating for a home or office, in larger applications.

Another key aspect of this technology is that the cells can be scaled to any size required, without difficulty. Small cells can be produced to power mobile phones for up to 30 days, or to operate laptops for twenty hours or more. Larger versions can be produced to operate as power plants, in order to provide electricity for small cities. And of course, there are many sizes in between.

The most notable use of fuel cells currently being developed is as a replacement for the combustion engine. It is very likely that cars and other vehicles will be powered by fuel cells in the not too distant future.

In light of the above, the U.S. Department of Energy (COE) is running a program in order to research and develop this technology further. The DOE considers this to be an important enabling technology for the hydrogen economy. It states that they have the potential to revolutionize the way we power our nation, by offering cleaner and more-efficient alternatives to the combustion of gasoline and other fossil fuels.

The DOE also considers that these devices have the potential to replace internal-combustion engines in vehicles, and to provide power in stationary and portable power applications because they are energy-efficient, clean, and fuel-flexible.

Currently the DOE is working closely with its national laboratories, universities, and industry partners across the United States to overcome critical technical barriers to fuel cell commercialization. It is currently focused on the development of reliable, low-cost, high-performance fuel cell system components, for transportation and buildings applications.

The first fuel-cell operated cars are currently being piloted. The first commercially available cars of this make are predicted to hit the consumer market by 2012.

There are many forms of alternative energy being researched, developed, and utilized around the world. There is solar power, wind power, hydro-kinetic power, biomass, ocean wave power, tidal power, and the list goes on and on. A key factor in reducing our uses of polluting fossil fuels will be to determine which alternative energy resources work best under which circumstances and in which locations. A full understanding of all alternative clean energy sources is necessary.

Fuels cells play a big role in helping clean up our environment.


Anna Williams educates others on alternative, renewable, and clean energy forms, on her blog, Clean and Alternative Energy.

For further information on the different uses of fuel cells, please visit How Fuel Cells are Used.

Source Article: Fuel Cells – Basic Information

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 Posted by at 11:15 pm