The Uses of Fuel Cells

An Alternative Energy Solution

It is a well known fact that fuel cells are a potential alternative to the internal combustion engine. In fact, even though fuel cells are still in their pilot stages of development, many car manufacturers have prototype vehicles that operate on fuel cells. The application of fuel cells is, however, far wider than just a solution for the combustion engine. This article discuses some of their uses and possibilities.

Currently, most major automakers are working to prepare fuel cells for cars. But fuel cells are already being used to power buses, boats, planes, forklifts, scooters, trains, and even bicycles.

Fuel cells are also used to power vending machines, vacuum cleaners, and highway road signs. Small fuel cells are being designed for laptop computers, cellular phones, and other portable electronics devices.

Larger fuel cells are also being used, to provide backup power for hospitals, credit card centers, police stations, and similar large-scale facilities. Waste water treatment plants and landfills make use of fuel cells to capture and convert the methane gas they produce into electricity. Telecommunications companies have started using fuel cells at cell phone, radio, and 911 towers. There is an endless list of applications where fuel cells provide an optimal solution.

Stationary Fuel Cells

Currently, over 2500 fuel cell systems are installed and used around the world – in hospitals, nursing homes, office buildings, hotels, schools, and utility power plants. They are either connected to the electric grid to provide supplemental power, or they serve as backup generators in critical areas where a loss of power could have devastating results. Fuel cells are, however, also being used as grid-independent generators for on-site services in areas not supported by the electrical power grid.

Fuel Cells and Telecommunications

Communication networks, computers, and the Internet are dependent on a reliable power sources. Our current electrical grid suffers from minor glitches and brownouts, and sometimes even blackouts. Fuel cells have a proven record 99.999% reliability. Fuel cells have the capacity to supply power for 1kW to 5kW telecom sites without noise or emissions. They are durable, and they can provide power to remote locations that are not easily accessible and are subject to inclement weather. Such systems can be used to provide either primary or backup power to telecom switch nodes, cell towers, and other electronic systems requiring on-site, direct stable and reliable DC power supply.

Fuel Cells and Industrial Waste

Fuel cells can be set up to capture waste and generate power in landfills, waste water treatment plants, and even in breweries.

In fact, fuel cells are already in use and operate successfully at landfills and waste water treatment plants across the country, capturing waste gasses in the form of methane, to generate power. Not only is this a useful means of utilizing waste products, but it also reduces the environmental impact of such waste gasses, by capturing them and converting them into clean power. Fuel cells use a valid technology for reducing emissions and generating power.

Fuel Cells and Transportation

As covered earlier, most major automotive manufacturers currently have a fuel cell vehicle, either in development, or in testing stages. Some are already leasing and testing in greater numbers of vehicles. We are still waiting for these fuel cell vehicles to hit the commercial market, however analysts expect the first commercial fuel cell vehicles to become available around 2012.

Fuel Cells and Rail-Transport

Due to the fact that fuel cells can be tailored to just about any power output required, fuel cells are now developed for locomotives. An international consortium is developing the world’s largest fuel cell vehicle, a 109 metric-ton, 1 MW locomotive. This locomotive will be used for both military and commercial railway applications.

Fuel Cells and Aviation

Fuel cells could possible be used to power airplanes, and have the benefit of producing no or very minor emissions and produce no noise when operating. They are an attractive option for aviation since they produce zero or low emissions and make barely any sound. This is of particular interest to military applications due to the low noise level, low thermal signature, and ability to attain a high altitude. Boeing is one of the aviation companies which is heavily involved in development of a fuel cell airplane.

Fuel Cells and Portable Power

Due to the versatility of size and the reliability of fuel cells, they can be used to provide power where the electrical grid is not available. The added benefit of low noise and low emissions make this an ideal solution for campsites. Portable fuel cells are can also be used as a reliable source of emergency backup power, both for civil and military applications. They weigh less than conventional batteries and have a much longer lifespan. This is crucial to situations where power needs to be gotten into locations only accessible by foot.

Fuel Cells Micro Power

Fuel cells will change world of telecommunications. They have the capacity to power small electrical devices for far longer than conventional batteries can. It has already been demonstrated that a fuel cell can power cell phones for 30 days without the need to recharge. Laptops have been run for 20 hour at a time on a single fuel cell charge.

By now, you should be able to see that fuel cells have the power to change the world of electrical power supply, and can make our conventional though environmentally harmful batteries redundant.

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12 Responses to “The Uses of Fuel Cells”

  1. Richard@Littman Bros. January 7, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    This is interesting. why haven’t we been using this stuff for a long time. It seems like it could be a very viable energy source.

  2. Robin January 28, 2009 at 4:30 am #

    You’ve really covered this topic from all angles. From the description, this is the future.

  3. billig mobiltelefoni June 10, 2009 at 10:07 am #

    That’s great! Your post is really interesting and informative. We have to do as much as possible to save the natural resource and fuel. It also means we are protecting our beautiful Earth for the future.

    billig mobiltelefonis last blog post..Nokia mobiltelefoner

    • Anna July 30, 2009 at 4:16 pm #

      @billig

      Thank you for the feedback. I’m glad you appreciate the information and I hope you will be able to do your part, to make a cleaner world, as well. 🙂

  4. Car June 7, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    I can’t wait till the day where we have an eco friendly solution for everything!!! =)

  5. Jonah Smith August 11, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    Good info there , this can make daily life much easy and also making use of natural resourses is good idea

  6. posit hoiuer March 3, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    I’m working at telecom company, major problems that we face is the number of cases of theft, especially the battery, is this technology could be a solution ?

  7. padded mats March 6, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    Maybe the fuel cells will be the future energy source..

  8. jatin arora March 16, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    your post is really fantastic and it is quite helpful for me to complete my project work. great work keep it up anna. 🙂

  9. Anaheim Home Wiring March 17, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    Wow! I was never aware of the uses of fuel cells in many applications. This post is so impressive and gave useful information of fuel cells in every application. Also, this gave me an idea that fuel cells are versatile and reliable. Magnificent!

  10. Henry Tran September 23, 2011 at 7:39 am #

    Thank you for this informative post. There are many companies currently pursuing a the holy grail that is fuel cell technology. However, there are still several challenges to overcome. Current fuel cells in use are very expensive, no matter what the application. For cars in particular, even if you have a fuel cell powered vehicle, we lack the infrastructure to support them. Add to that, hydrogen is extremely costly to produce which makes the currently level of technology we have not as viable.

    But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get excited about fuel cell technology. Fuel cells are also being looked at to power homes one day so there would no longer be a need for a massively complicated electrical infrastructure. Each and every home will have their own fuel cell to provide power and lighting, making them self sustaining.

  11. Aisha December 20, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

    Thanks for telling us the uses of fuel cell , i think that this idea can change our life

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