Q. What is a fuel cell?
A. A fuel cell is a device that generates electricity from a continuing chemical reaction. The principle of the fuel cell was discovered by Christian Friedrich Schonbein in 1838, and the first working fuel cell was developed by Welsh scientist Sir William Robert Grove in 1843. Fuel cells were used on the Apollo spaceflight missions to the moon, combining hydrogen and oxygen to provide electricity and drinking water to astronauts. Since that time, they have become the focus of development for stationary and portable power generation systems, and fuel-cell-powered electric vehicles.
Q. How does a hydrogen fuel cell work?
A. While there are different kinds of fuel cells, a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel cell harnesses the electricity that is created when a chemical reaction occurs between hydrogen and oxygen. When hydrogen is introduced on the anode (negative) side of the fuel cell, it interacts with a metal catalyst to form two hydrogen ions (+) and two electrons (-). The electrons are conducted away to form an electric current. The positively charged hydrogen ions pass into the film-like Proton Exchange Membrane, where they meet with oxygen atoms from the cathode to form water vapor molecules (H2O) - the only exhaust product other than heat. The entire reaction continues to produce electricity and water vapor as long as hydrogen and oxygen are available to the Proton Exchange Membrane and its catalysts. See diagram
Q. How is a fuel cell different than a battery?
A. They are similar in concept but very different in operation. Batteries store electrical energy chemically in a closed system and must be recharged or replaced. In a fuel cell such as Trulite's, hydrogen flows into the fuel cell which is converted to electricity.
Q. Where does hydrogen come from?
A.Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. All of the stars, including our own sun, are powered by the atomic fusion of hydrogen. Four-fifths of the Earth is made up of water, which is simply one oxygen atom bonded to two hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen makes up part of many elements in the universe.
Q. How is hydrogen stored?
A. One of the safest ways to store hydrogen is in a chemical hydride material. This is the concept behind the sodium borohydride HydroCell™ used in the Trulite power generator system. Hydrogen can be stored in high-pressure tanks, especially if those tanks are kept at very low temperatures. Such tanks are bulky and don't lend themselves to portable power generation. Hydrogen can also be produced from a breakdown of hydrocarbon fuels such as methane or even gasoline through a chemical reformer. However, these reformers produce hydrocarbon emissions and operate at extremely high temperatures.
Q. Is hydrogen safe?
A. Hydrogen is a flammable gas and must be handled with care. In many ways it is safer than gasoline. Hydrogen is less explosive than gasoline vapors and gasoline is heavier than air and tends to pool on the ground where they can be accidentally ignited. Hydrogen gas is significantly lighter than air and will dissipate quickly if a leak occurs, greatly reducing the chance of an explosion. Storage and distribution of hydrogen is no more dangerous than any other gasified fuel, such as propane.
Q. What are the overall benefits of a hydrogen fuel cell?
A. Low noise than internal combustion engines, compactness and a complete lack of harmful emissions are the main benefits. Hydrogen fuel cells can be used to produce electrical power with only water vapor and heat as the exhaust products. This makes them ideal for emergency power systems in a house or in an environment where emissions from a gasoline or diesel-powered generator would be toxic. Because fuel cells are extremely quiet and highly portable, they can be used in disaster relief or in remote locations along with solar and battery systems to create an efficient power generation system.
Q. How does this compare to other energy sources?
A. Compared to gasoline- or other internal-combustion-powered electrical generators, a hydrogen fuel cell is more efficient, much quieter, is lighter in weight, produces no harmful exhaust gases, and has few moving parts. Compared to battery-only systems, fuel cells do not require recharging and weigh less, making them easier to transport.
Q. What are the advantages of a Trulite hydrogen fuel cell power generator?
A. Trulite’s power generators use a proprietary HydroCell™ canister to store dry sodium borohydride, the environmentally friendly medium used to embed the hydrogen until it is required in the process. With the controlled introduction of water (which is added to the fuel cell power generator before start-up) into the sodium borohydride, hydrogen is produced and introduced into the fuel cell to produce electricity. Benefits of the HydroCell™ include: