0 Starting point. An introduction to the concept of the fuel cell and what it means to society. Some alternative energy technologies are introduced; solar energy and intelligent load-balancing are discussed. A look at global warming, and the sensationalism that often surrounds it. What are the truths about global warming, and what is merely hot air? Surface temperature and sea levels are discussed. A history of fuel cells and a look at their inner workings. A more detailed look into various energy sources, with links and helpful insights into the energy sources of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Links to the finest energy source resources in the world. Use these to get started on your quest to building the solar home of the future, or as a research tool in your quest to find new renewable energy sources. Concluding remarks; what can we do to preserve energy and fossil fuels while we wait for fuel cells to come to fruition?
 Fuel Cells
I. Historical Background
II. Internals
III. Fuel Cell Diagram

Historical Background

Conceptually, the fuel cell is nothing new. Sir William Grove, widely regarded as the "Father of the Fuel Cell," experimented with electrolysis of water as early as 1839. The name itself came about in 1889, when it was coined by inventors Luwdig Mond and Charles Langer. More information about the early fuel cell experiments is available through the Fuel Cell Commercialization Group's "What is a Fuel Cell?" fact sheet.


To grasp the concept of a fuel cell, first visualize a conventional battery. Chemical reactions within the battery cause electrons to collect on the negative electrode (anode) of the battery. By connecting the anode to the positive electrode (cathode), the electrons are free to flow from the negative terminal to the positive, providing electricity to any devices installed between the two with a wire.

In a fuel cell, the concept is basically the same, except that the chemical reactions are different. Hydrogen is introduced onto the anode, and a platinum coating helps to separate it into hydrogen ions and electrons.

In the center of the fuel cell is an elecytolyte membrane which will only allow the ions to pass through. The electrons leave the fuel cell as electricity. This reaction is represented by:

On the other side, oxygen enters the fuel cell on the cathode. A similar platinum coating allows the oxygen, protons, and leftover electrons to combine to form water and heat. Thus, the reaction on the cathode is represented by:
The lifespan of a fuel cell differs from that of a battery as well. Batteries will eventually deplete their internal supply of chemicals, and the cell will be useless. Fuel cells (will eventually) run forever, given a fuel (such as hydrogen) and oxygen. Fuel cells are always ready to run; there is no warm-up time. The cell will produce electricity the moment a fuel source and oxygen
are introduced.

Fuel Cell Diagram

Last Modified 2 December, 2001 22:16
©2001 Samuel Shaw