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Published on October 12th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans


Hydrogen Fuel Cells

The concept behind fuel cells has been around since 1839, but the first working fuel cell wasn’t built until 1843 when Sir William Robert Grove undertook the project.  Fuel cells work much like a battery, in that energy is created through a chemical reaction.

Both fuel cells and batteries are called electrochemical energy conversion devices.  The difference between the two is that a battery stores its chemicals inside of its casing.  Eventually, a battery will require a recharge or it simply goes dead.  Fuel cells, on the other hand, require a constant stream of chemicals in order to produce energy.  As long as there is that steady flow of chemicals sparking a reaction, the cell produces and electrical charge.  Basically, fuel cells never needs a recharge and they never go dead.

Fears of leaky battery acid plagued most of us in our childhood days.  No need to worry when it comes to fuel cell chemicals.  The most common chemicals used in fuel cell technology are hydrogen and oxygen.  Electricity is created when these molecules are forced together in the cell itself.  Thinking back to your high school chemistry class: What do we get when the number of hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms are just right?  Water.  Unlike combustion engines that emit greenhouse gases and other pollutants, the by product of hydrogen fuel cells is water.

Although this technology has been around for over 150 years, it is still costly to produce cells that can provide an automobile with enough energy to replace the combustion engine.  However, the Advanced Energy Initiative of 2006 pledged to make hydrogen fuel cell vehicles cost effective by the year 2020.

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