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Tuesday, 28 November 2017

How Fuel cells Works -Fuel cell technology explained

  The rising demand for Electric power pushing our technology to develop further to meet high demand & zero emission. A fuel cell is a technology which producing clean electric energy directly from hydrogen & oxygen without any pollutant emission. This fuel cell technology is so clean that it doesn't produce any pollutant emission to the environment & the fuel cell produces Clean water as an output. A fuel cell is not an electric energy storage technology like a battery. It directly produces electric current & supplies it.

By Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
  So if we see the application this fuel cell can be used anywhere, like in automobiles, in the emergency situation & also as a portable electric current generator etc. The wide application of fuel cell technology is in the Automobile industry to achieve zero emission for the clean and healthy environment. But with that, there also have some disadvantages which limit this technology to be widely used in automobiles. Let's get started in details …..

   Need of Fuel Cell

  The fuel cell can be used anywhere where electric power is needed. If we talk about especially about as per the main sources of electric current generation, we have two options one is diesel & gasoline power source and the second one is electric power source. Again in the Electric power source, we have 2 options one is Battery and another is Fuel cell technology. The biggest disadvantages with battery are recharging time. In order to have Electric powered vehicles with fast refueling option, Fuel Cell concept comes. In addition to the automobiles, there are many options like an emergency situation, remote areas & many more.

Main Parts Of Fuel Cell

  •   2 catalyst
  •   Proton Exchange Membrane
  •   Hydrogen Tanks
  •   Electrical Circuit
  •   Exhaust

How fuel cell works

  As stated earlier the fuel cells instead of the store the energy, they produce electric energy and supply them. Here the hydrogen is taken as Primary input from the hydrogen tank to the !st catalyst. The catalyst is a substance which increases the chemical reaction without undergoing any changes. Here the only work of the catalyst is to separate the hydrogen into electron & proton(proton are in the form of hydrogen ions ). Next, to the catalyst, one proton exchange membrane is there which allows the protons to travel through and acts as a barrier for the electron. So the proton just travels through the proton exchanges the membrane and reaches the 2nd catalyst. This creates energy difference between both the catalyst. Due to that the electron must travel from 1st to 2nd catalyst, but cannot go through proton exchange membrane. So electrons move through the electric circuit where the load (i.e. electric bulbs, induction motor & any electric device ) is connected.

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Due to the flow of the electrons, the circuit becomes charged and the load or electrical device begins to work. At the end of the circuit, the electron reaches the 2nd catalyst. At 2nd catalyst, the oxygen(from the air) is taken as secondary input. The electron at 2nd catalyst mixes with proton(hydrogen ions ) & oxygen and produces clean water. In this system, hydrogen and oxygen are the input and electric energy at the circuit & water at the exhaust are the outputs. As the electron flows from the 1st catalyst to 2nd catalyst, 1st catalyst is the anode and the second catalyst cathode.This is how fuel cell produces electric energy from hydrogen and oxygen without emitting any pollutant.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Fuel Cell


  •   Zero Emission and Completely clean
  •  Less refueling/recharging time as compare to Battery
  •  Can be carried easily From place to place
  •  Can be used in emergency situations & remote areas.


  •  Hazardous- We know that hydrogen is extremely flammable. So carrying hydrogen tank is not a good idea especially in case of Vehicles.

  •  Low Efficiency – Fuel cell shows very low efficiency (20% approx) as compare to the Diesel & gasoline
  •  Hydrogen Source – Hydrogen can be extracted from water and there is no shortage of water on earth. But the extraction process is not an easy process and also takes energy, thus lowering the efficiency.


 Limitation of fuel call is a single fuel cell does not produce enough power to run cars, so many fuel cell needs to be connected. Also due to highly flammable hydrogen, Carrying is not safe.


 The concept of the fuel cell is not new, its principle was firstly developed in 1801. Several cars also run on this fuel cell technology. But due low efficiency & unsafe, wide application is not possible. But in case of some emergency situations where electricity needs to be developed instead of storage, fuel can be useful there. Not particularly on automobiles, but charging our laptops on emergency as a backup & in some emergency backup cases this can be useful.

     Let me know in the comment how to do you like the fuel cell article, what do you think and also if you find anything wrong in the article. 

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