Hydrogen Fuel Cells in Green Engineering Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Fuel Cells in Green Engineering

The energy tomorrow is beginning to be available today. Fuel cells, which just a very few years ago were a pipe dream, are becoming g a reality, and they are used in areas ranging from space exploration to toy motivation (Joy). The promise of the fuel cell can be seen in the fact that they use the most abundant source of energy on the planet, Hydrogen atoms (Birch). They are also being seen as the energy savior because they emit a common, non-toxic waste which can also be utilized as a saving grace around the globe, water (Joy; Patturaja). A fuel that uses the most abundant element on the planet and emits clean, pure water does seem like science fiction, but there are already being used with it as a motive force.

The space shuttle has always been powered by hydrogen fuel cells (Joy). Although they are not the same kind that will end up in vehicles or houses, they are a model of what is to come. Some fleets of cars and government vehicles, ferries, buses and other modes of public transportation have already begun to use fuel cell technology as a power source (Joy).

The technology, then, has promise for its versatility in number of uses, but also for the variety of ways that the fuel can be provided (Patturaja). This essay will further discuss how fuel cells are constructed and how they can be used as a green innovation.

How Fuel Cells Work

Right now, there is only one type of fuel cell (Birch), but there are technologies on the near horizon that could use common garbage in the production of hydrogen.

To back up a bit, vehicles can convert fuel to energy in one of two ways and fuel cells are no different.

"[Vehicles] convert the chemical energy of hydrogen to mechanical energy (torque) in one of two methods: combustion, or electrochemical conversion in a fuel-cell: In combustion, the hydrogen is burned in engines in fundamentally the same method as traditional gasoline (petrol) cars. In fuel-cell conversion, the hydrogen is reacted with oxygen to produce water and electricity, the latter of which is used to power an electric traction motor" (Patturaja).

The use of fuel cells, which "release electrons from the hydrogen gas creating electricity and the waste product after the electricity is used to power an electrical device is water, formed with the negative hydrogen and the oxygen" (Joy), is safe and effective. They produce enough energy to power a car, and has been shown the space shuttle.

The reaction occurs as explained in this article by Karim Nice and Jonathan Strickland;

"Pressurized hydrogen gas (H2) entering the fuel cell on the anode side. This gas is forced through the catalyst by the pressure. When an H2 molecule comes in contact with the platinum on the catalyst, it splits into two H+ ions and two electrons (e-). The electrons are conducted through the anode, where they make their way through the external circuit (doing useful work such as turning a motor) and return to the cathode side of the fuel cell. Meanwhile, on the cathode side of the fuel cell, oxygen gas (O2) is being forced through the catalyst, where it forms two oxygen atoms. Each of these atoms has a strong negative charge. This negative charge attracts the two H+ ions through the membrane, where they combine with an oxygen atom and two of the electrons from the external circuit to form a water molecule (H2O)."

Fuel Cells and Green Engineering

But the most interesting thing about fuel cells is not how they can be used or even how they convert hydrogen into motive energy, but how and through what means the hydrogen itself can be generated. Most of the time scientists have been working with water to electrolyze the hydrogen they need from the component molecule H2O (Khan). This technology is not new. For a matter of fact, Epcot Center in Orlando, FL has shown fuel cell technology using water to convert hydrogen into…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Birch, Amanda Sue. "Microbial Fuel Cells: Converting Waste to Water and Watts." Engineering and Technology for a Sustainable World. (2010). Print.

Fields, Scott. "Making the Best of Biomass: Hydrogen for Fuel Cells." Environmental Health Perspectives. (2003). Print.

Joy, Linda E. "A Basic Overview of Fuel Cell Technology." Automotive Community. (2007). Web.

Khan, Abdul Majeed. "Electricity Generation by Microbial Fuel Cells." Advances in Natural and Applied Sciences. (2009). Web.

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