Fuel Cells: Technology, Benefits and Advantages
What is a fuel cell?
A fuel cell is an electrochemical power generator that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, with water and heat as byproducts. Simply put, hydrogen fuel cells form energy that can be used to power anything from commercial vehicles to drones.
Hydrogen and fuel cell technology offers a clean and reliable alternative energy source to customers in a growing number of applications – electric vehicles including forklifts, delivery vans and cars, primary and backup power for a variety of commercial, industrial and residential buildings, and more futuristic-sounding applications like drones and mobile phone recharging. This diversity positions the industry as a key contributor to creating an increasingly sustainable landscape for reliable power generation on a broad scale.
How does a fuel cell work?
The “magic” of the fuel cell is its membrane, which looks like a piece of construction paper. On one side of the membrane we deliver hydrogen; on the other side, oxygen. The membrane combines the two to form water, electricity, and heat. Fuel cells are capable of producing electricity continuously as long as they have fuel.
Unlike toxic batteries, which have limited stored energy, and noisy, polluting diesel generators, fuel cells run cleanly, quietly and continuously as long as fuel is provided. Other fuel cell advantages include the following:
- Increased Efficiency
When compared to conventional power generation, fuel cells can increase efficiency levels over 50 percent.
- High Reliability – Robustness
Fuel cells have a reliability rating of 99.9%, and Plug Power guarantees the uptime of its products at 97%. Simplicity of design and very few moving parts result in a robust, reliable power solution. Elements that shorten battery life, such as temperature, do not affect the lifetime of a fuel cell.
- Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Fuel cells significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, when fueled with pure hydrogen, the only by-products are heat and water, making this a zero-emission sustainable power source.