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Hydrogen Fuel Cells

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Fuel Cell entails a gadget that has the potential to convert chemical energy. This conversion, which involves chemical energy shifts, changes fuel to electricity through a chemical reaction that utilizes an oxidizing agent. Thus, in Hydrogen Fuel Cells hydrogen acts as fuel that enables the conversion process to be complete. The difference between fuel cells and batteries is the fact that fuel cells require oxygen and fuel, which should be supplied at a constant basis. With the supply of these two elements, the fuel cells produce constant electricity. Currently, fuel cell technology is employed in powering different machineries such as forklifts, submarines, airplanes and boats. However, it should be noted that the hydrogen fuel cell has not been fully adopted as governments have not fully established its benefits. Several benefits derive from the use of hydrogen fuel cells and these include minimal greenhouse emissions, less pollution by machineries, high efficiency, reliability and maintenance, and distributed generation and combined heat and power. Thus, these form benefits will be derived from hydrogen fuel cells. The causes for adopting hydrogen fuel cells include their energy efficiency and simple construction mechanisms. Statistics on hydrogen fuel cells indicate that hydrogen from different sources can be instrumental in reducing 11 million barrels demand of oil used per day across the world. This is estimated to take place by 2040.

This essay explores the need to adopt hydrogen fuel cells and the resultant benefits. The essay sums up a call for action resulting from the use of hydrogen fuel cells.

Reasons for adopting the use of Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Firstly, Manus Higgins and Murdoch University cite that there is increased pollution of the environment, which necessitates the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell (112). The has been a recent increase in the number of automobiles that utilize oil for their powering. Consequently, the rate of carbon dioxide has increased in the atmosphere, and this has increased the effects of global warming. Many parts of the world have reported receiving adverse weather conditions, which have resulted in immense destruction of property. For instance, floods in Africa have carried animals and caused many deaths, and these are blamed on the effects of global warming. Thus, this entails the adoption of hydrogen fuel cells as they result in minimal emissions.

Secondly, the increased markets for hydrogen fuel cells imply that it should be adopted. Stolten confirms the fact that revenues from fuel cell exceeded $750 million market share globally (72). In addition, the hydrogen fuel cells shipped globally increased in the same year by 11 thousand shipments from 140,000 fuel stacks that was shipped in 2010. This reflects an annual growth of 115 % from 2007. The aforementioned statistics indicate the markets’ acceptance of hydrogen fuel cell as a means of fuel thus necessitates its adoption.

Another reason for adoption of hydrogen fuel cells is the fact that it can support myriad of applications. Research by Patterson verifies that buses, forklifts, motorcycles, airplanes, submarines and boats can be powered by using hydrogen fuel cells (86). Statistics on this matter prove that some buses have already done more than 900, 000 kilometers on hydrogen fuel cells. Further research on the matter reveals that buses fueled by using hydrogen fuel cell technology have a remarkable fuel economy compared to buses run on diesel. In regards to submarine, hydrogen fuel cells are employed for the purpose of keeping them submerged for several weeks. In addition, hydrogen fuel cell ensures that these submarines are silent, which helps them to camouflage against detection. Other applications that can be supported using hydrogen fuel cell include telecommunication equipment, notebook computers, distributed generation, small heating appliances and smartphones. Thus, these provide a reason why fuel cell should be adopted.

Hoffmann & Dorgan compare the efficiency of a conventionally based power plant and that of fuel cells (112). According to their research, hydrogen fuel cells are more efficient compared to the conventional combustion-based power plant, which generates electricity at efficiencies of 33-35 %. On the other hand, the hydrogen fuel cells have a higher efficiency of 60%. This criteria is also similar to car engines, whereby a gasoline engine in a car has a 20% less efficiency compared to that of hydrogen fuel cells, which are more energy efficient and consume up to 50% of fuel energy. Thus, with all these reasons why hydrogen fuel cells should be adopted, it is essential to explore how these fuel cells operate.

Busby asserts that the hydrogen fuel cells function almost in a similar manner as batteries do (63). The hydrogen fuel cells comprise of an anode, two electrodes, and a cathode. A membrane is used to separate these components. The functions of the two electrodes is to allow the passage of oxygen and hydrogen. When hydrogen reacts to a catalyst attached on the electrode anode, conversion of hydrogen gas takes place to result in positively charged ions and electrons that are negatively charged. Eventually, electrical energy is produced by the electrons that flow out. Notably, the fuel cells have a longer life than batteries.

Effects of Adopting Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Sorensen asserts that hydrogen fuel cells are safer (78). This emanates from the fact that hydrogen has been used in various industries such as glass making welding and hospital without causing any dangers. It should also be noted that the gas is lighter among all the gases; thus, it disperses quickly, which lessens instances of fire breakouts. Another safety quality associated with hydrogen is that it only ignites after it has accumulated in an enclosed place, which again is not possible because it has a tendency to escape.

Hydrogen and fuel cells have also been established to be reliable and easy to maintain. According to Hoffmann & Dorgan, a hydrogen fuel cell has a few parts that move (53). These parts are again involved with water, air management, and heat, which requires only compressors, pumps and blowers to be effected. Thus, this means that hydrogen fuel cells have less parts that move, which translates to low maintenance costs. Research by Patterson confirms that the moving parts in a hydrogen fuel cell can run for over 100 hours without requiring oil to be changed (92). This means that hydrogen fuel cells are more reliable in comparison to internal combustion engines that require regular visits to the garage.

Stolten cites a reduction in pollution as the main effect of adopting the hydrogen fuel cells (54). Noise pollution will be reduced considerably because the applications that use hydrogen fuel cells have fewer moving parts that require the use of oil. Patterson indicates that only three gadgets in a hydrogen fuel cell make some noise and these include the blower, compressor or pump (53). Low emissions also result from using hydrogen fuel cells. Thus, the environment will be conserved with low emissions because research indicates that there is a minimal emission amount from these cells compared to that from other combustion technologies. This is attributed to the fact that no combustion takes place in hydrogen fuel cells, which means no NOx and SOx are emitted. In addition, these cells consume less fuel to provide the same amount of energy as combustion-based machineries.

High efficiency also ranks among the benefits derived of adopting the use of fuel cells. Research indicates that fuel cells employ the use of electrochemical reaction for energy to be produced, which is in the form of electricity and heat. These can both be used at the extraction point, which indicates efficiency. Much higher conversion efficiencies are achieved in fuel cells because they only need one step to convert fuel to energy. Thus, this means that the gadgets that employ fuel cell technology are more efficient compared to those that utilize combustion technology. This is why Higgins and Murdoch University assert that there will be a considerable drop of carbon monoxide emissions by the year 2050 if the technology is adopted (68).

Hoffmann & Dorgan assert that the dependence on hydrogen fuel cell will reduce the overreliance on oil (97). This emanates from the fact that hydrogen can be locally manufactured from domestic sources such as coal, natural gas and water. Thus, this will improve the viability of the economy and prevent it from suffering and being vulnerable to oil price shocks.

However, some issues result from the use of hydrogen fuel cells. Firstly, Stolten confirms that the technology is already in use, especially on automobiles (75). The author, on the contrary, is quick to cite the higher prices for the vehicles. Fuel Cell Vehicles are said to be retailing at a higher price than the conventional and hybrid vehicles.

Another issue results from the fact that the on-board storage of hydrogen on some FCVs poses a challenge. This is because technology has not been succesful in different types of cars. This means that technology can only be applicable to lighter vehicles, which compromises the customer’s tastes.

Transportation of fuel cells from a plant to customers is also challenging. This originates from the fact that hydrogen escapes easily and cannot be easily contained. Thus, it is advisable that new ways of transporting the energy to consumers should be established because the convention ways of transporting fuel cannot support hydrogen fuel cells.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Hydrogen fuel cells have been established as an alternative source of fuel to the combustion technologies. Several factors abound as to why hydrogen fuel cells should be adopted; these include increase markets for the source of energy with submarines, buses, motorbikes, boats, and airplanes utilizing the technology. Increased pollution also abounds as another reason why this fuel should be adopted. Increased pollution results from the use of conventional fuels, which leave a higher amount of carbon dioxide in the environment when combusted. The fact that hydrogen fuel cells can support myriad of applications forms a reason why it should be adopted. Among the applications that it can support there are smartphones, vehicles and telecommunication. The effects that emanate from adopting hydrogen fuel cells include safety promotion because hydrogen has been used extensively with minimal cases of fires and other uncertainties. Secondly, efficiency will be achieved as hydrogen fuel cells only require one step to convert energy.

Thus, considering the above findings, I appeal to the legislature to focus more research on hydrogen fuel cells in order to establish a viable way that can facilitate its fully adoption as the mainstream source of energy. This follows the fact that hydrogen fuel cells can help significantly reduce environmental pollution. I also appeal to the legislature to facilitate the lowering of prices of vehicles that rely on hydrogen fuel cell as they contribute significantly to the reduction of pollution. The legislature should also focus on mass production of hydrogen fuel cells to prevent the country from suffering from the volatile price shifts of oil originating from the Middle East.

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