What is the difference between a battery and a fuel cell?
Today's most common fuel cells use oxygen and hydrogen to create electricity. As long as there's a steady stream of these two elements moving into the fuel cell, energy will come out.
The first fuel cell was invented by Sir William Grove in:
A continually recharging energy source may sound like a futuristic technology, but Sir William Grove invented the fuel cell in 1839. The name "fuel cell" didn't show up for another 50 years, though.
If you see a car running off a fuel cell, that cell is probably a:
Alkaline fuel cells are pricey, and solid oxide fuel cells become unstable when they don't run continually. But a PEMFC is relatively stable and has a low operating temperature, so it's a better candidate to take the place of the gas-powered engine in a car.
What are the four main parts of a PEMFC?
An anode and cathode are basically the same things as positive and negative terminals in a battery. The electrolyte is a special membrane, and the catalyst starts the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.
A PEMFC converts:
A fuel cell is basically an electrochemical conversion device -- it converts chemicals to produce energy. In a PEMFC, hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water.
The byproducts PEMFC creates are:
It may seem hard to believe, but a PEMFC doesn’t generate a lot of waste. Instead of greenhouse gases or air pollutants, it gives off heat and water.
What is one of the primary downsides of fuel cells?
Many fuel cells require expensive materials, like platinum. On top of that, they're generally expensive to manufacture. One of the reasons you don't see fuel-cell cars on the road is that costs a lot less to create energy by burning gasoline.
The weather can be a problem for PEMFCs because:
The membrane inside a PEMFC has to stay moist in order for the cell to work. This means that extreme temperatures and dry environments can cause problems.
The Hydrogen Fuel Initiative (HFI) encourages the development of hydrogen and fuel-cell technologies. This initiative was announced:
The HFI was one of the programs announced during President George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Advanced Energy Initiative of 2006 support the HFI.
The U.S. government is funding fuel cell research because:
Only 4.6 percent of the world's population lives in the United States, but the U.S. uses a quarter of the world's oil. Fuel cells provide a source of energy that doesn't require oil. It won't be a cheap transition, though. They hydrogen infrastructure needed to support fuel cell use may cost $500 billion.
Fuel cells are still pricier than even premium-grade gas -- do you know why? Test your fuel cell know-how in this quiz and learn some cool fuel cell facts along the way.
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