Electricity is generated when coal is crushed into fine powder and burned in boilers to heat water and that in turn produces steam. The steam is directed onto blades of a turbine to make it spin. This in turn spins the magnetic rotor inside the coil to generate electricity. This process emits harmful gases and produces harmful bi-products that pollute the environment. Because coal is slowly depleting, its causing electricity prices to increase greatly. A solution to this could be a certain type of fuel cell that uses hydrogen and oxygen to produce energy which could be a substitute for coal.
William Grove was credited with inventing the fuel cell in 1839. He conducted a series of experiments, which proved that electric current could be produced from an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen over a platinum catalyst. He invented the first hydrogen fuel cell which he called the “gas Voltic battery”.
Between 1950 and 1960 NASA began developing fuel cell generators for manned space missions. The first PEM (Proton-exchange membrane fuel cell) unit was one result of this. A fuel cell is a device that generates electricity through a chemical reaction. Fuel cells do not store energy they only produce it. Every fuel cell has two electrodes called, the anode and cathode and has an electrolyte between them. The reactions that produce electricity take place at these electrodes.
The purpose of a fuel cell is to produce an electrical current that can be directed outside the cell that can power an electric motor or a city. Presently there are two main types of hydrogen fuelled fuel cells. The hydrogen fuel cell and the proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEM)
The two pencils acted as electrodes in the experiment. One of the pencils acted as an anode for the Oxygen and the other acted as a cathode for the Hydrogen or vice versa. The water acted as an electrolyte solution. The water was broken down into oxygen and Hydrogen via electrolysis. Within 10-20 seconds of placing the pencils in the Luke-warm water, bubbles began to form around the pencil leads and bubbles would float to the surface of the water. Within 5-10 seconds of placing the pencils in the boiling water, bubbles formed around the pencil lead tips and bubbles floated continuously to the surface of the water. Within 20-30 seconds of placing the pencils in the ice-cold water bubbles formed around the pencils lead and bubbles floated to the surface occasionally.
The fuel cells under all conditions were able to power an LED light. As the temperature of the water increased the voltage also increased. Temperature affects how well electricity is able to flow through an electrical circuit by changing the speed at which the electrons move. This is due to an increase in resistance of the circuit which results from an increase in temperature. Electrolysis also took place inside the beaker and it was found out that the higher the temperature of water is, the faster the speed of electrolysis is. This allowed for more hydrogen to be produced in a shorter period of time. This means that, with an increase in water temperature, electrolysis allowed for a large input of hydrogen which resulted in a large output of electricity. It can be concluded that more electricity is generated at higher temperatures of water. This was not the most accurate demonstration of a hydrogen fuel cell because, I needed to have a supply of oxygen and hydrogen, that needed to come from different directions and the bi-product of them combining would have been water and energy. The only way I could get hydrogen and oxygen was through electrolysis of water. But one thing that was proved was that when hydrogen and oxygen combine, they are able to generate electricity.
How will the fuel cell work in electricity generation?
A single fuel cell consists of an anode and cathode which is separated by an electrolyte. A hydrogen tank will supply hydrogen to the anode of the fuel cell and air will be supplied to the cathode of the fuel cell. The hydrogen is split up into protons and electrons. The hydrogen protons pass across the electrolyte to the cathode where they combine with freed electrons and oxygen forming electricity. The electrons are forced through a circuit, generating an electric current and excess heat. Water and heat are released as bi-products. Electricity is generated through an electro-chemical reaction, which is a process in which electrons flow between a solid electrode and substance, such as an electrolyte. With the combination of hydrogen and oxygen you produce water and electricity without any combustion (means to burn). This means that there are no harmful emissions or bi-products because of this process or reaction.
What will the fuel cell in theory consist of for electricity generation?
It will consist of a fuel cell stack. A fuel cell stack is multiple layers of fuel cells on top or next to one another. Between each fuel cell is a Rib separator plate which acts as a gas manifold (smooth). This plate provides the electrical connection between the fuel cells and creates a gas barrier keeping the fuel and air flows in their separate paths. There are Gasquet’s at the edges, on the front and the back of the fuel cell to prevent any gas from leaking. These fuel stacks determine the power output. This output is changed by increasing or decreasing the number of fuel cells in a fuel cell stack. The more fuel cells in a fuel cell stack the greater the output power will be. The less fuel cells in a fuel cell stack the smaller the output power will be.