Hydrogen Fuel Cells Essay

1369 words - 6 pages

Hydrogen owing to its abundance in universe is replacing the fossil energy sources like coal, petroleum etc that are being depleted speedily. Hydrogen is energetic per unit mass of fuel burned i.e. 120.7 kJ/g compared to any type of fuel (Haryanto et al., 2005). Moreover, fossil sources produce pollutants like COx, NOx, SOx, CxHx, soot, ash and other organic compounds to the atmosphere on burning that adds to the global warming. Hydrogen was discovered by Henry Cavendish in 1766 and named in 1783 by Antoine Lavoisier with origin of name from words "hydro" and "genes" meaning "water" and "generator" because it burns to produce water only (Song, 2003). It is present in combination to the other ...view middle of the document...

In addition to these, other requirements can be for military operations, it should provide underwater operation, for material handling equipments should charge a battery during the off period or serves as a power back up (Narayan and Valdez, 2008). But storage of hydrogen is a significant barrier for the mobile application of fuel cells, as it is highly flammable.
The thermal power generated by combustion route may be useful for fuelling the grid but off-grid power for portable applications in small scales is not generally viable by this route. The energy obtained cannot be readily exploited into electricity unless either some working fluid, like steam (steam turbine) or exit flue gases (gas turbine) are made to run a turbine that can reduce the overall efficiency for conversion to electricity. Further, combustion to electricity is not generally viable at small scales, owing to the large heat losses to the environment and lower mechanical efficiencies. So, rather than production of more energy or heat it is preferred to have more useful form of energy.
Ethanol is a good candidate as a feedstock for H2 production, as it is renewable, bio-degradable, has high hydrogen content, low in toxicity, easily decomposed in presence of water, easy storage and distribution and free from catalyst poisons such as sulphur (Haryanto et al., 2005). Bioethanol is a diluted aqueous solution with 12% by weight ethanol that can be used directly to produce hydrogen without requiring additional expensive steps like distillation to separate ethanol (Freni et al., 2002). Methanol directly can also be used as a fuel in the fuel cells but its conversion kinetics are slow and catalyst deactivation due to the presence of carbon monoxide and sulphur can also occur, therefore, hydrogen fuel cells are preferred over direct methanol fuel cell (Trimm and Onsan, 2001). Steam reforming is the most cost effective process at commercial scale but it has limitations of reversibility of reaction, catalyst deactivation and diffusion limitations (Zhai et al., 2010). The implication of the barrier to cost-effective, safe and efficient hydrogen storage on-board a vehicle or in any other portable applicable implies that the hydrogen has to be produced on-board from a certain environmentally friendly process in a compact device or a fuel processor (with reformer as its heart). Onsite production also avoids the construction of extensive and costly transport and distribution infrastructure. Although steam reforming will produce carbon dioxide to the atmosphere but that can be used to produce biomass through photosynthesis if bio-fuels are used as the fuel to reformer. Ethanol steam reforming has been studied in the past to produce hydrogen or synthesis gas [1-4] and various reaction mechanisms have been proposed using different catalysts [5, Zhang et al. (2008)]. Kinetics have been studied considering a reaction system of steam reforming, water gas shift reaction, dehydrogenation etc [Mas et...

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