The Future of Hydrogen Fuel Cells
The present global economy is nearly entirely dependent on petroleum and crude oil imports from the Middle East. Where the current situation stands now, oil prices will continue to skyrocket and the environmental impact will continue becoming greater if no form of alternative energy is implemented to a greater extent within the coming years. However, to this effect, the industrial cost of producing such forms of alternative energy is in itself primarily composed of coal and petroleum. In this light, I will investigate the practicality of hydrogen fuel cells based upon hydrogen consumption and exploitation. Hydrogen holds enormous promise for the future regarding alternative energy sources. To this point, its ability to be used in cars, weapons, and as miniature batteries has been demonstrated by many companies. However, if this is the case, hydrogen should be the leading supplier of power around the world. What prevents it from being so?
With alternate energy sources becoming more and more necessary and desirable, not only does the future hold promise for a cleaner environment, but many companies and entrepreneurs have the potential to make billions of dollars should hydrogen, nuclear, or some other alternative source of energy become implemented worldwide.
Let it first be understood the underlying principles of hydrogen power production in a fuel cell. There exist many hydrogen fuel cells being developed by multiple companies worldwide; however, the fuel cell showing the most promise as a future source of alternative power is the Polymer Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) and is widely regarded as a possible replacement for diesel and petroleum cars (http://www.fctec.com/fctec_types_pem.asp). In this specific type of fuel cell, hydrogen is fed into a chamber essentially with a cathode and an anode. The negatively charged anode splits hydrogen atoms into separate ions. The electrons flow to complete a circuit and once utilized, continue on to return to the fuel cell and recombine with hydrogen to allow the latter to bond with oxygen molecules to form water as the single waste element (http://www.fctec.com/fctec_types_pem.asp) (the basic diagram is found at the aforementioned site). However, what elements are required to make this system equally or more efficient than gasoline engines?
The energy produced by a hydrogen fuel cell is produced by the combination of atoms and the decrease in volume of gases. In this, it is crucial to understand the entropy of one mole of hydrogen, oxygen, and water, in this example, at 298 Kelvins and one atm, which are 130.68 J/K, 205.14 J/K, and 69.91 J/K respectively. Entropy here is important to measure because it represents the energy which may be lost due to a quantity of disorder, in this case measured by the amount of heat added per unit of temperature. Because the chemical equation for water may be rearranged as H2+.5O2=H20, the entropy value of one mole for...