Can Fuel Cells Contribute to Future

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CAN FUEL CELLS CONTRIBUTE to FUTURE POWER CRISIS?
Yong Ting Hui
University Tunku Abdul Rahman, Faculty of Engineering and Science UTAR Complex Jalan Genting Kelang 53300 Setapak Kuala Lumpur. tinghui@1utar.my

Abstract— Our current rate of non-renewable energy usage will lead to power crisis in the future. Power crisis is a state where the demand for power energy increases and the price of power energy rises. Therefore, civilization will be forced to research and develop alternative energy sources. At the beginning of the 21st century , fuel cells appear poised to meet the power needs of a variety of applications. Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy to electricity and thermal energy. Fuel cells, being one of the energy sources, can it contribute to future power crisis? This paper will discuss whether fuel cells can contribute to future power crisis.

Keywords— Fuel cell, power crisis, energy sources, research, electricity. Introduction
The world is addicted to petroleum. We are absorbing this fossil fuel and eating it up faster than ever. We use petroleum to fuel our large and small power generators and our automobiles consume petroleum as if it were water. To reduce this mass consumption, alternative energy are needed. Fuel cell, a device that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent.

Hydrogen is the most common fuel of fuel cells, but hydrocarbons such as natural gas and alcohols are sometimes used. Fuel cells are different from batteries in that they require a constant source of fuel and oxygen to run. Fuel cell can produce electricity as long as fuels are supplied. Fuel cells consist of an anode (negative side), a cathode (positive side) and an electrolyte that allow charges to move between the two sides of the fuel cell. Electrons are drawn from the anode to the cathode through an external circuit, producing direct current electricity. Fuel cells are classified by the type of electrolyte they use as the main difference among fuel cell types is the electrolyte. They are five basic types of fuel cell. Low temperature types include the alkaline fuel cell (APC) and solid polymer fuel cell (SPFC), the medium temperature type is the phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC) and the two high temperature types are the molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC) and the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). Each one is different and is best used for a specific purpose. In this technological age, electronics play a vital role in our daily lives. Computers, automobiles, houses and many other items which we interact with on a daily basis require electric power. The answer of a fuel cells is a useful and resourceful way to power these application and thus our lives.. how fuel cells work

A fuel cells can be represented by an idea of an anode and a cathode. As shown in Fig.1, a fuel cell consists of two electrodes, an anode and a cathode. The cathode is sandwiched around an electrolyte. The electrolyte is also known as the proton exchange membrane (PEM). The membrane only conducts positively charged ions. Inside the fuel cells, there is a catalyst that works to speed up the process of the reaction without affecting the anode or cathode. The cathode is usually a rough and porous powder which thinly coats carbon paper or cloth so that a maximum surface area can be exposed to the hydrogen or oxygen.

Fig.1 Basic setup for a fuel cell

In Fig. 2, hydrogen gas is fed to the anode and oxygen gas is fed to the cathode. Reacting upon its own pressure, the hydrogen atoms are forced through the catalyst. Once it comes in contact with the catalyst, the hydrogen forms two hydrogen ions and two electrons. The protons, the positively charged ions and the electrons, the negatively charged ions, travel to the cathode. The electrons pass through an external circuit creating a flow of current that...
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