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BEYOND HYDROGEN

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BEYOND HYDROGEN ( beyond-hydrogen )

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The BEYOND HYDROGEN: electricity is generated. In an automobile, this electricity is used to run an electric motor that makes the car go. The chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen that powers the fuel cell is the same as when you simply burn hydrogen: 2h +o ➞2ho 222 Why bother with a fuel cell then? Why not just burn the hydrogen? The answer is efficiency. If we burn hydrogen in an internal combustion engine, like the ones in normal cars, the reaction is rapid and uncontrolled and only turns about 20% of the energy in a fuel into useful work. The rest of the energy is wasted as heat or spent overcoming all of the friction between all the moving parts of a gasoline engine. In a fuel cell the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen is very con- trolled and happens at a much slower rate. Fuel cells don’t generate much waste heat. This means a fuel cell can convert about 50% of the energy in hydrogen to useful work. So how does it all work? A fuel cell has three main parts: a membrane, an anode cata- New Chemistry of Fuel Cells BF very convenient way to make When people start discussing alternatives to the internal combustion engine, the discus- sion almost always includes the hydrogen fuel cell. There are good reasons for this. Hydro- gen fuel cells don’t pollute; their only exhaust gas is water vapor. They are also very efficient. In some ways, hydrogen fuel cells seem like the answer to all of our gasoline problems. What fuel cells do In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are converted into water, and in the process, y Mark Michalovic or the past one-hundred years, burning gasoline has been a cars move. However, times have changed. You need crude oil to make gasoline, and crude oil is getting harder to find. Although the earth isn’t out of oil just yet, the oil that is still out there is often hiding in places where drilling is difficult, like under- neath the ocean floor. What’s more, much of the world’s oil is in places that are politically unstable. All of this tends to drive the price of gasoline higher. even when gasoline is cheap, burning it still produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. The Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first predicted back in 1896 that burning fos- sil fuels could cause global warming. Today, with gas prices and global temperatures both going up, some people are starting to think it might be time to find other ways to make cars, trucks, and buses go. hydrogen ions are formed when electrons are removed from h2. the electrons move through the circuit to the cathode–causing the motor to work in the process. the hydrogen ions combine with 02 gas to form water. The operation of a hydrogen fuel cell Electron flow Electric motor Proton flow Electrolyte Excess hydrogen fuel out H2(g) Hydrogen fuel in H2(g) O (g) Oxygen in 2 Water H2O(g)product out Anode Electrodes Cathode Chemmatters, DECEMBER 2007 1 GeTTY IMAGeS CeSAR CAMINeRO

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