In the daily news, we always hear about how the United States has a dependence on foreign oil. Is there an alternative available that is suitable for our needs? As the population of the world continues to increase, there is a growing demand for a more efficient source of fuel in transportation. Hydrogen fuel cells are a remarkable technological innovation that are suitable to replace our dependence on fossil fuels because hydrogen can be obtained from renewable resources.
Inspiration from Hydrogen Fuel Cells
As a Chemical Engineering student, I am conflicted with how I can find my suitable place in a complex global society. I have many particular areas of interest with my major, including hydrogen fuel cell technology. Because hydrogen fuel cell technology has limitless potential, I believe that further research should be done on this subject to promote its use in the world’s transportation sector. This particular subject-matter has inspired me to study Chemical Engineering because of how it could revolutionize the way we live.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology
Hydrogen fuel cells (or HFCs) are electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy inside of the cell into electrical energy. This production of electricity can be used to power the vehicle. In order to be successful, they must be environmentally-friendly and economically efficient to use on a global scale. A sustainable energy system implementing fuel cells requires that hydrogen should be used as the substance to be converted into a supply of reliable and safe energy.
Mechanism of HFCs
The internal workings of a hydrogen fuel cell are fascinating, yet simplistic. A series of electrochemical redox reactions create a flow of current, thus powering the vehicle. Hydrogen fuel is channeled through one side of the fuel cell, while oxygen travels though the other. As the hydrogen is converted into positively and negatively charged electrons to form a continuous current, the oxygen combines with the hydrogen ions in order to create water, a clean byproduct of the electrochemical reaction. How can this process be utilized in a vehicle?
PEM Fuel Cells
Proton Exchange Membrane or PEM fuel cells are the most suitable fuel cell for transportation systems. They consist of a polymer electrolyte membrane, which acts as a catalyst to split the hydrogen inside of a fuel cell into its respective ions. This type of fuel cell is particularly interesting because it operates under low temperatures, which reduces the chance of a flame or heat related issue. Because they are not corrosive, they are safer to use in electrically powered vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cells have made large strides in the field of alternative fueling as a result of their versatility and safety. This is all good news, however, but are there any existing vehicles with this type of technology?
The Model E fuel cell electric vehicle is an all-electric car that uses a fuel cell and a small battery instead of the conventional internal combustion engine. What is particularly great about this model is that it has the capability of using a fuel cell stack, in which multiple fuel cells are put in series and parallel in order to increase the voltage and current used throughout the car for power. Hydrogen is a substance that can be liquefied, which makes it easily storable in a tank where a traditional gasoline tank would be located in a conventional vehicle. The spectacular nature of this vehicle allows it to regenerate electricity from braking as electricity is sent back to the battery to charge it. This regenerative breaking technology will save drivers fueling costs in the long run. This transitioning technology will maximize the electrical output of the vehicle.
A Hydrogen Economy
Hydrogen is a versatile substance, being implemented in spaceship propulsion systems, as an energy carrier in the transportation sector, and its application in hydrogen fuel cells. The United States will one day face a severe scarcity of petroleum and oil. We are obligated to find an alternative fuel source because without it, our nation will not be able to function like it does today. A hydrogen economy is an economy where hydrogen fueling stations replace gasoline stations, making it convenient industrially and in residential areas for those who have to drive on a daily basis. Using hydrogen fuel cells is a hope for the future.
HFCs: Innovating our Future
Our nation is facing an economic downturn; hence, it is logical to find a suitable and sustainable energy supply for when our dependence on foreign oil backfires. If hydrogen fuel cell technology and its infrastructure could be implemented and expanded, our nation could revitalize in both the business sector and the industry. It could build more jobs all the while protecting the environment. You could make the change by buying an electric vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells in the future when the technology is potentially perfected in both design, cost, and efficiency. We must embrace and support alternative energy and make our planet a better place to live.