The search for free energy has become very much like alchemy ... with a language of it's own ... if you don't know what to call something .... no problem, just make up a name !. Thus Mr. Meyers electrolyser became known as a 'fuel cell' and dissociation as 'catastrophic dielectric failure'. Unfortunately the term 'fuel cell' already belonged to a device that converted Hydrogen and Oxygen into electrical power !.
Fuel cells general.
As rod Stewart was once reported as saying .... "Picture worth a thousand words ,,, innit ?". I will go along with that, so let us first look at a video ......
Fuel cells have been around since the early half of the 19th century and progress since then has mainly relied on the appearance of new materials and processes, such as the deposition of platinum on membrane by Niedrach, It was his fuel cell that was used on the Gemini project. It was not until 1950 that the British scientist Francis Bacon demonstrated a 5 kW stationary fuel cell. Pratt and Whitney licensed Bacon's U.S. patents for use in the U.S. space program to supply electricity and drinking water (hydrogen and oxygen being readily available from the spacecraft tanks).
Proton Exchange membrane.
Nafion, manufactured by Du Pont is the most common proton exchange membrane used in fuel cells at the moment. Other membrane are manufactured by 3M and Toyota. Nafion casts about 400 Euro's per square meter, but the ITM membrane manufactured by Ballard Power Systems is much cheaper at 4 Euro's per square meter. More data is available on Wikipedia.
A lot of development work is being carried out on other membranes and ceramics. One thing that the video did not say was when the hydrogen and oxygen recombines into water on the right hand side of the cell ... heat is produced. Some cell types can reach cell temperatures of up to 800 degrees C. At first glance this may seem a problem, but in low powered Micro-cars it can partly solve the problem of heating the vehicle during the winter !. Recombination is only possible due to the presence of the right hand platinum catalyst coating.
In order to work, fuel cells need both a fuel and oxygen source. The oxygen can be pure oxygen or compressed air can be used with about a 10% lower conversion efficiency. Many types of fuel can be used in a fuel cell providing the correct electrolyte is used with it. Some typical fuels and relevant electrolytes can be seen in the following table.
|Fuel Cell Name||Electrolyte||Qualified Power (W)||Working Temperature (°C)||Electrical efficiency||Status||Cost per Watt|
|Metal hydride fuel cell||Aqueous alkaline solution (e.g.potassium hydroxide)||?||above
(50% Ppeak @ 0°C)
|Electro-galvanic fuel cell||Aqueous alkaline solution (e.g., potassium hydroxide)||?||under 40||?||Commercial/Research|
|Direct formic acid fuel cell (DFAFC)||Polymer membrane (ionomer)||to 50 W||under 40||?||Commercial/Research|
|Zinc-air battery||Aqueous alkaline solution (e.g., potassium hydroxide)||?||under 40||?||Mass production|
|Microbial fuel cell||Polymer membrane or humic acid||?||under 40||?||Research|
|Upflow microbial fuel cell (UMFC)||?||under 40||?||Research|
|Reversible fuel cell||Polymer membrane (ionomer)||?||under 50||?||Commercial/Research|
|Direct borohydride fuel cell||Aqueous alkaline solution (e.g., sodium hydroxide)||?||70||?||Commercial|
|Alkaline fuel cell||Aqueous alkaline solution (e.g., potassium hydroxide)||10 kW to 100 kW||under 80||Cell:
|Direct methanol fuel cell||Polymer membrane (ionomer)||100 kW to 1 MW||90120||Cell:
|Reformed methanol fuel cell||Polymer membrane (ionomer)||5 W to 100 kW||(Reformer)250300
|Direct-ethanol fuel cell||Polymer membrane (ionomer)||up to 140 mW/cmē||above
|Direct formic acid fuel cell||Polymer membrane (ionomer)||?||25+||?||Research|
|Proton exchange membrane fuel cell||Polymer membrane (ionomer) (e.g., Nafion or Polybenzimidazole fiber)||100 W to 500 kW||(Nafion)50120
|RFC - Redox||Liquid electrolytes with redox shuttle & polymer membrane (Ionomer)||1 kW to 10 MW||?||?||Research|
|Phosphoric acid fuel cell||Molten phosphoric acid (H3PO4)||up to 10 MW||150-200||Cell:
|Commercial/Research||$4-$4.50 per watt|
|Molten carbonate fuel cell||Molten alkaline carbonate (e.g., sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3)||100 MW||600-650||Cell:
|Tubular solid oxide fuel cell (TSOFC)||O2--conducting ceramic oxide (e.g., zirconium dioxide, ZrO2)||up to 100 MW||850-1100||Cell:
|Protonic ceramic fuel cell||H+-conducting ceramic oxide||?||700||?||Research|
|Direct carbon fuel cell||Several different||?||700-850||Cell:
|Planar Solid oxide fuel cell||O2--conducting ceramic oxide (e.g., zirconium dioxide, ZrO2 Lanthanum Nickel Oxide La2XO4,X= Ni,Co, Cu.)||up to 100 MW||850-1100||Cell:
Copyleft GNU Wikipedia
A fuel cell the size of a 38 cm cube can deliver 50 kW (67 HP) which pales into insignificance compared with the size of the fuel tank required. Current hydrogen powered cars have a typical range of bout 270 km. Fuel storage, coupled with long distances between available hydrogen refueling stations seem to doom any real progress until a hydrogen based structure is in place. For example at this time there is only one hydrogen refueling station in the whole of UK and that is at Birmingham University.
To get a hydrogen based system into place is going to require a huge investment ... at a time when people are arguing about whether it is the best solution or not. Without refueling stations there is no point in car manufacturers producing production hydrogen cars. The only solution to this problem is that somehow, the car has to produce it's own hydrogen 'on demand'. So basically we are looking for a system whereby, a hydrogen powered vehicle car be refueled anywhere .... without need for refueling stations, that do not at present exist. One solution is not to produce hydrogen as a liquid of a gas .... but as a solid !. OK lets have a look another video .......
Hydrogen in solid form is what industry is looking at right now, because in the absence of any other validated method of producing sufficient hydrogen ... there are not many other options.
D.I.Y alkaline fuel cell.