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Fuel cells are devices which produce electricity through biochemical reaction. Fuel cells are efficient in use. According to a study conducted by Schröder, fuel cells have an efficiency of up to 65% (Schröder and Uwe2621). The cells can generate electricity due to the positive and negative electrodes, also referred to as anode and cathode respectively. The electrodes enhance reaction to occur thus producing power. Each fuel cell carries and electrolyte with charged particles and catalysts that fastens the rate of reaction.
Fuel cells function by generating an electric current which is emitted outside the cell to work in several ways, such as lighting a bulb or powering an electric motor. Hydrogen atoms make a way into to the fuel cell at the positively charged electrode where electrons are removed during the reactions. The hydrogen atoms then get ionized to obtain a positive electric charge. Oxygen, on the other hand, enters the fuel cell through the negatively charged electrode then combines with electrons and hydrogen ions in the presence of a catalyst that speeds up the reaction. A circuit has to be complete in its functioning. Therefore the current produced returns to the fuel cell, to complete a circuit. They function the same way batteries do but do not need to be recharged every time.
The electricity produced is constant as long there is a supply of fuel.
Fuel cells perform a range of actions. This include in stationary, transportation, and emergency power backup, among other aspects. Scientists have invented different types of fuel cell, in a bid to attain efficiency in the operation of fuel cells. The types of fuel cells are determined by the electrolyte, which includes alkali, phosphoric acid, and solid oxide, among others. Fuel cells have some advantages, encouraging people to use it a source of generating electricity. Fuel cells are environmentally friendly, in that the reaction does not cause pollution. It uses hydrogen and oxygen during the reaction, which combines to form water that does not cause any harm (Kordesch Karl and Guenter 200). Further, fuel cells have lower emissions as compared to other combustion engines. Fuel cells are also useful as compared to other devices such as gas or diesel engines. With ease in its use, its maintenance is simple as well because it has few moving parts.
Just like any other device, fuel cells also have drawbacks. For fuel cells to function efficiently there has to be the supply of hydrogen and oxygen. However, the most significant challenge that is being faced in the world today is the lack of a source of hydrogen since it is hard to store or distribute for future use. A lot of money is therefore spent on transportation of hydrogen. It, therefore, requires a tremendous amount of money also to break down elements that produce hydrogen and this has posed a challenge in the use of fuel cells (Schröder and Uwe 231). Further hydrogen is highly inflammable, and its use in aspects such as transportation, specifically in cars has caused a threat. Due to the fear of explosion. The fact that hydrogen flame is not visible during daylight makes it harder to be contained in case of a blast.
Despite the drawbacks in the use of fuel cells, it is evident that fuel cells are more efficient as compared to other devices that generate power or electricity. The relevant authorities should partner with the department of energy in funding and overcome technical barriers associated with fuel cells.
Kordesch, Karl V., and Guenter R. Simader. "Environmental impact of fuel cell technology." Chemical Reviews 95.1 (1995): 191-207.
Schröder, Uwe. "Anodic electron transfer mechanisms in microbial fuel cells and their energy efficiency." Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 9.21 (2007): 2619-2629.
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