Fuel Cell- an electrochemical energy conversion device which typically produces about 0.86 volt


The idea of the fuel cell was created by a German scientist named Christian Friedrich Schonbein in 1838 but the first fuel cell was developed in 1843 by Sir William Robert Grove, a Welsh scientist. The first practical fuel cell was invented in 1959 by Francis Thomas Bacon, a British engineer, and was used to power a welding machine.


Christian Friedrich Schonbein

Sir William Robert Grove


Francis Thomas Bacon

The hydrogen fuel cell is composed of a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) which is between two catalyst layers (the composition of these catalyst layers varies, but the basic process of the fuel cell is always consistent). Hydrogen atoms come into contact with the negative anode catalyst layer and when they do, they split into one proton and one electron. The proton is emitted through the central PEM and the electron is emitted through an external circuit where it produces electricity. The electron returns to the positive cathode catalyst layer where it meets with the proton plus an oxygen molecule. Meeting with the proton and oxygen molecule creates water in the positive cathode catalyst layer.




Hydrogen fuel cells can be used anywhere that hydrogen and oxygen are available. The hydrogen and oxygen are usually stored in compressed tanks and the hydrogen is available at "hydrogen refuelling stations." The first hydrogen refuelling station open to the public was opened in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2003.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells and their Future in Cars

hmfff.jpgCurrent Uses

  • Have been used for decades on NASA spacecraft (Were used to supply electricity and drinking water in the Apollo missions)
  • Electric and Hybrid Vehicles
  • Submarines (In order to remain submerged for w eeks)
  • Hydrogen fuel cell powered motorcles (called ENVs) with top speeds of 50 mph

Future Uses

  • Base load power plants
  • Auxilary power
  • Off-grid power supply
  • Laptops where traditional AC charging is not available for extended periods of time
  • Portable chargers for small electronics
  • Hydrogen fuel cell powered boats