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How Hydrogen Fuel Cells Work

How Hydrogen Fuel Cells Work

How hydrogen fuel cells work is a very interesting subject. In fact, there are many things about the hydrogen fuel cell that people are not aware about. There are also many people that are interested in learning about what common features are shared by hydrogen fuel cells and ordinary batteries. Each does, for example, make use of electrochemical energy conversion in order to produce electrical charges. Each also makes use of cathodes, anodes as well as electrolytes.

Hydrogen fuel cell – different to batteries

However, once you learn about how hydrogen fuel cells work you will find that there are many differences between the fuel cells and the ordinary battery. Batteries produce electrical charges till they become discharged but fuel cells continue producing electrical charges as long as they have access to fuel as well as oxygen.

Proton Exchange Membrane

When checking out how hydrogen fuel cells work, you will come across different types of hydrogen fuel cells. The good news is that each of these hydrogen fuel cells works on a similar principle. The most commonly used hydrogen fuel cell is the one known as the Proton Exchange Membrane or PEM fuel cell. Any discussion about how hydrogen fuel cells work should revolve around PEM fuel cells because it is widely being used in all kinds of modern transportation vehicles.

Working of PEM

To learn how hydrogen fuel cells work, you need to take a close look at the PEM fuel cell. Hydrogen gas, under great pressure, will be pumped into a PEM fuel cell and at the side that holds the anode. The gas is then forced through the cell's catalyst where the hydrogen molecules will make contact with the cell's catalyst. This leads to the splitting of hydrogen into two protons as well as two electrons.

Negatively charged electrons

Both the electrolyte and the PEM will allow the proton (with positive charge) to enter while at the same time the negatively charged electrons are prevented from entering. The electrons will be sent through the cell's anode and will move through an external circuit in the form of direct current which can be used to power up an electrically operated motor. Finally, the electrons will come into contact with the cathode where they will combine with the catalyst in the cathode and the proton then comes through the PEM and along with air or even just oxygen gas will be forced into the catalyst. This results in the formation of a pair of oxygen atoms which are strongly negatively charged.

The negatively charged atoms attract the pair of Hydrogen protons and will combine with an atom of oxygen as well as a pair of electrons. This results is the formation of a molecule of water. When learning how hydrogen fuel cells work, you will also find out that the PEM is material that has especially been treated to make it look like the normal kind of plastic that one uses in a kitchen. However, the membrane has to undergo hydration in order to keep it stable and to allow proper transfer of protons.

Learning about how hydrogen fuel cells work is interesting. Catalysts are a very important player in the separation of hydrogen into its ions as well as protons at the end where the anode is placed. These will combine later at the cathode and produce water.

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