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Hydrogen Fuel Cells
As a lot of the alternative energy sources, Hydrogen Fuel Cells are a relatively new technology that was originally developed for the space program.
In fact they are similar to batteries in that they produce electricity by a chemical reaction combined with an electrical charge. The difference with batteries is that power is only produced while the fuel cell is being fed with hydrogen. You can find more in depth information about their workings on our site.
The amount of electricity the fuel cell produces depends on the size of the cell as well as the rate of flow of the hydrogen. The chemical reaction between hydrogen and the air produces electricity, water and heat.
The heat output from a fuel cell, however, is quite low when compared with other energy sources such as fossil fuels.
There are several advantages of hydrogen fuel cells over other power supplies. First of all they are clean - the only by products are water and a little bit of heat.
Secondly, they are very efficient. Gasoline engines, for example, operate at an efficiency rate of about 20%. Fuel cells have an efficiency rate between 45% and 53%.
Hydrogen fuel cells can be used anywhere electricity is required. Since their size is scalable they can be made small enough to power an MP3 player or big enough to power a town. They can also be used to provide rotary power for vehicles.
The automobile industry is looking at fuel cells as a replacement for the internal combustion engine. If they become popular, cars powered with fuel cells will reduce our dependency on petroleum and cut down on pollution.
Hydrogen fuel cells have also been installed to provide power for industrial buildings and even whole neighborhoods.
Fuel cells are expected to replace petroleum as a power source within 50 to 100 years. They have broad commercial and social applications. They could be used to bring electricity to remote settlements around the world as well as to provide a source of renewable power for portable devices.
Government support and commercial interest has guaranteed the success of this sustainable, clean energy source.
This all might sound great, but there is a catch. We need energy to produce hydrogen. At the moment the most widely used energy source to produce that hydrogen are fossil fuels.
So Fuel Cells are certainly an option, but we will need a lot of extra research to find ways to safely produce the hydrogen we need.
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