April 17, 2021

Hydrogen Fuel Cell: Alternative for combustion engine

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Hydrogen gas or H2 is a gas that contains a lot of chemical energy if you Ignite it, it will react with the oxygen in the air and release its energy using an explosion, and the only waste product is water. No CO2 nor any toxic gases just a bit of water. Of course, the uncontrolled explosion is great fun but how to properly use hydrogen as a fuel to power machines and vehicles, such as cars, well to do that we use a Fuel cell Hydrogen Fuel Cell.

    What is Hydrogen Fuel Cell?

    A hydrogen fuel cell is a device that takes hydrogen and oxygen and uses those to create electricity but how exactly does a fuel cell work let's find out.

    How does it work?

    Hydrogen Fuel Cell |working of Hydrogen Fuel Cell | What is Hydrogen Fuel Cell
    Hydrogen Fuel Cell

    The schematic diagram shows a Hydrogen Fuel cell in which on the left is the Anode and on the right side there is a Cathode, the anode, and the cathode are hollow areas in which gas can be sent inside, this is where the hydrogen gas goes and the oxygen goes into the cathode in between them there is a catalyst and an electrolyte(Proton exchange membrane).

    What happens when the system is turned on?

    When the system is turned on we get hydrogen in the anode and oxygen in the cathode, now the hydrogen inside the anode wants to go to the other side to meet with oxygen, and then react with it to form water. 

    But there is a problem with it, H2 cannot get to the other side because there is something between them the Electrolyte(Proton exchange membrane). The electrolyte is a material that only lets positively charged things get through it. 

    Why can't Hydrogen go through electrolytes?

    To know the reason behind it we need to go into the depth of hydrogen, A Hydrogen is not positive. A hydrogen atom consists of one proton and one electron one positive particle and one negative particle making the overall particle neutral.

    So the hydrogen in our system is neutral and not positive so it cannot go through the electrolyte. However, there is a solution to it which is the Catalyst. Now, what the catalyst does? 

    In this case, it does the splitting of electrons from the protons so that electrons of the hydrogen atoms are removed from their protons.

    So now we have got a bunch of protons and electrons, protons are also known as h+ which can pass right through the electrolyte because they are positive and they can meet with oxygen on the other side.

    Generation of Electricity

    But there is a problem, you see these are just protons and not really hydrogen anymore, so they can't react with oxygen and form water. 

    To do that the electrons that are still on the other side must be transported over to the cathode first you might have noticed that words I used electrons and transported, and for transporting or moving electrons there is a name for that which is Electricity. 

    That's right moving electrons is what we called Electricity, so we can simply connect a wire-like shown in the diagram, and then the electrons can simply able to float right through the wire to the other side, and they will meet up with the protons and can react which oxygen to form water which can leave the system and now what we have obtained is electric current running through a wire which we can then used to power a light, the bulb, a motor.

    This is how the power output of the fuel cell is obtained.

    Where are these Fuel cells used?

    Hydrogen fuel cells are useful in automobile industries. Hydrogen is arguably safer than gasoline, so safety isn't a huge concern for hydrogen.

    Currently, several companies around the world are working on the development of hydrogen cars.


    Hydrogen is the most abundant and readily available source of energy. To support zero carbon emissions hydrogen is one of the best alternatives and one of the clean energy.

    As it is having the highest calorific value it will be more powerful and more efficient. It is more efficient than many other green energy solutions. 

    One of the most important advantages is that it has a fast charging time compared to many other combustion engines.


    Now although the cell is such a clever invention does have some drawbacks, 

    First of all, it gets really hot when it is in operation and this can lead to fuel cells potentially damaging can themselves if it is cooled properly.

    Another disadvantage of a fuel cell is it is very expensive you can remember that catalyst we talked about that is actually made out of platinum which is of course so very expensive.


    So now you know how a Fuel cell works. But keep in mind that Fuel cells are different from battery cells. I hope you enjoyed reading this post.

    What do you think will Hydrogen Fuel Cell be the future of electric vehicles?

    If you liked this post or topic please do consider commenting with your thoughts and share.

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