There is a lot of misunderstanding in this thread. A Hydrogen Fuel cell
is a means of creating electricity - the hydrogen is fed into the cell and electricity is produced.
That is the simple part.
Here is a part explanation:
In principle, a fuel cell
operates like a battery
. Unlike a battery
, a fuel
cell does not run down or require recharging. It will produce energy in the form of electricity and heat as long as fuel
A fuel cell consists of two electrodes sandwiched around an electrolyte. Oxygen passes over one electrode and hydrogen over the other, generating electricity, water
A fuel cell produces electricity.
The fuel cell is similar to a battery. It produces electricity using chemicals
. The chemicals are usually very simple, often just hydrogen and oxygen. In this case the hydrogen is the "fuel" that the fuel cell uses to make electricity.
Another very important difference is that fuel cells do not run down like batteries. As long as the fuel and oxygen is supplied to the cell it will keep producing electricty for ever.
The oxygen needed by a fuel cell is usually simply obtained from air.
Although the majority of fuel cells use hydrogen as the fuel, some fuel cells work off methane, and a few use liquid fuels such as methanol.
Fuel cells that use hydrogen can be thought of as devices that do the reverse of the well known experiment
where passing an electric current
splits it up into hydrogen and oxygen. In the fuel cell hydrogen and oxygen are joined together to produce water and electricty.
Fuel cells can be made in a huge range of sizes. They can be used to produce quite small amounts of electric
power, for devices such as portable computers
transmitters, right up to very high powers for electric power stations.
Now for the more complex bit.
How do you create the hydrogen.
You could fill a tank with it, but it needs a fair bit to run. The most sustainable way is to create the hydrogen, and in large installations, this is done from diesel
Researchers in Germany
and Switzerland invented a way of transforming liquid diesel
fuel into a vapor and converting it into hydrogen gas in a reformer. The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar
Energy Systems (ISE) in Germany
, together with a Swiss engineering company, developed a patented process.
These reformers are big at the moment and only work with really large fuel cells, but future miniturisation of the process will open it to use in smaller vehicles.