Fuel cells can be used to generate electrical power for many every day applications. A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that uses a specific fuel, such as hydrogen, and an oxidant such as oxygen from air to generate electrical energy.
All fuel cells have the same fundamental elements, an electrolyte and two electrodes. However different types of fuel cells, based mainly on what kind of electrolyte they use and have different properties. To learn more abut different fuel cell types, click here.
How does a fuel cell work?
Fuel cells unlike batteries, do not need recharging. They will continue to produce electricity and heat providing fuel is supplied. A fuel cell consists of two electrodes—an anode (negative electrode) and a cathode (positive electrode). The electrodes are separated by electrolyte. A fuel, for example hydrogen, is supplied to the anode, and air is supplied to the cathode. A catalyst is generally present at the anode which encourages the dissociation of the fuel molecule separating hydrogen molecules into protons and electrons,
Video of how a fuel cell operates
which take different paths to the cathode. The electrons go through an external circuit, creating a flow of electricity. The protons migrate through the electrolyte to the cathode, where they unite with oxygen and the electrons to produce water and heat. Learn more about how to build a solid oxide fuel cell.