In our quest for new ways to provide the energy we need, the hydrogen fuel cell has been discussed quite a lot. But just what is it and is it the answer?
The hydrogen fuel cell creates power by converting chemical energy into electrity, which we can then use. It sends off smaller amounts of carbon dioxide than other fuel methods and can generally keep running as long as it’s supplied with oxygen.
The raw materials for the hydrogen fuel cell are in plentiful supply too, with Hydrogen being the most common element available on the planet. The way it works is that a hydrogen fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to give off electricity, heat, and water. This element has high amounts of energy, for very little pollution. Aside from this, the cells run pretty quietly, and the noise level is much lower than that associated with the likes of fossil fuels. When we use the hydrogen fuel cell, we end up with energy and a little bit of hydrogen and water, as opposed to billowing smoke and harmful fumes. So why have we not all made the switch already?
For one reason, this is all pretty new, and further study and testing are needed prior to large scale commercial use. The big companies have built their models and their fortunes on fossil fuels, so it will be difficult enough to move them over from this, especially as the hydrogen fuel cell is not as tried and tested as it could be. The cells are not the strongest either and in extreme temperatures could break. Aside from this, Hydrogen itself is very flamable indeed, even more so than oil and it’s harder to keep a lid on it should it escape. Not very comforting stuff if it’s running your aeroplane or car.
It’s not there yet, but it could be. If we can move our focus away from the old fashioned methods and take a look around, we will find the answer. Then all we need to do is perfect it. The hyrdogen fuel cell is an example of how we can do so if we have the will to change.