Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fuel Cells for Electricity Generation

What About Fuel Cells?

I had an interesting letter recently from Brett F. , proposing fuel cells as a possible alternative energy source. It is an area of power generation I had not given much consideration. Here is a brief extract of that interesting letter:

Hi, A lot of great points you raise here. I too would like to see some appreciation for sustainability in the Energy supply in Ireland and around the world.

You should explore the possibility of fuel cells mentioned later in my rant. I have been loosely following their development for some years now, but I’m not sure why their release to the market is so slow. They are very expensive at the moment but when everyone has one or two in the back yard and 5 or 6 in the house, I’m sure they will be cheaper to produce than petrol.

Fuel Cells are possibly the long-term answer. A fuel Cell, say 1 cubic meter in size, is supposed to be capable of supplying a small village. The Ideal Fuel cell requires Hydrogen and Oxygen in gas form, and the only output is H2O (Pure Water) and Electricity. Some types can produce a little CO2 because they use methanol as an input instead of Hydrogen gas, but its negligible. The energy is not produced by burning the fuel, but it uses the electro potential difference of two gasses to strip electrons for the electricity – like a battery.

A battery used electro potential of two metals but the electro potential between two gasses is much greater. The problem in harnessing this electro potential is keeping the two gasses physically separated while letting electrons and ions flow between them. Recently, this has been made possible using ceramics technology.


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