It is anticipated fuel cells may become a cost effective alternative energy supply resource for consumers - offering affordable power, increased reliability and lower emissions than conventional coal-fired power plants.
What are fuel cells?
Fuel cell technology has been around for more than 100 years. A fuel cell is a device that generates electricity by a chemical reaction. This reaction produces an electrical current that can be directed outside the cell to do work, such as powering an electric motor or illuminating a light bulb or a city.
Why are fuel cells valuable?
If fuel cells become more commercially viable, consumers could generate their own electricity at their homes and businesses - leading to savings on energy bills. Unlike conventional fossil fuel power plants, electrolytes used in these cells produce little of the greenhouse gas - carbon dioxide.
In the United States, tests are being conducted on a range of cell types. Major manufacturers - General Electric, Delphi, Mitsubishi and Honda - are investing heavily in fuel cell technology research and development. However, the technology needs to be developed more fully before fuel cells will be readily available and affordable for the average consumer.
What is the difference between a fuel cell and a battery?
Fuel cells and batteries are similar because they use a chemical reaction to provide electricity. However, a battery stores the chemical reactants and must be recharged or disposed. The fuel from a fuel cell is stored externally.
How are fuel cells being used?
Fuel cells are currently being developed for residential, commercial and industrial power generation and heating; automobiles; laptops; cell phones; and military/governmental applications.
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