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First invented in 1839 by William Grove, a fuel cell is an electrochemical energy conversion device that produces electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen into water. Like batteries, fuel cells convert potential chemical energy into electrical energy and generate heat as a by-product. But since the chemical energy is stored inside batteries—rather than generated—they can only operate for a limited duration until they need to be discarded or recharged. Fuel cells, on the other hand, can continuously generate electricity if they are supplied with an unlimited amount of fuel (hydrogen) and oxygen.
Fuel cells rely on a chemical process called oxidation in which hydrogen atoms react with oxygen atoms to form water and release electrons (i.e., electricity). Unlike other electric power sources such as turbines or engines, they do not rely on the combustion or burning of fuel. Without the energy-wasting movement of pistons and blades or the emissions typical of combustion, fuel cells have more than twice the energy efficiency of combustion engines and are a quiet and clean source of power.
All fuel cells are comprised of an anode, a cathode and an electrolyte solution in which the electrochemical reaction takes place. Fuel cells are often characterized by the type of electrolytic material used to enable ion exchange. Since different materials are electrolytic at different temperature levels, fuel cells are generally classified as low temperature (alkaline and proton exchange membrane), medium temperature (phosphoric acid fuel cells) and high temperature (molten carbonate and solid oxide). Each type of fuel cell has its own inherent strengths and weaknesses which make them applicable for certain markets.
Alkaline fuel cells (AFC) were developed in 1959 by Francis Thomas Bacon. Reaching up to 70% efficiency, they are among the most efficient type of fuel cells and were used by the NASA and MIR space programs to produce electricity and drinking water.
Alkaline fuel cells have significant and inherent advantages over other types of fuel cells:
Our team, comprised of some of the world’s most renowned fuel cell experts, has taken our generators’ AFC based system and continued to develop it, redesigning several components using less costly materials to make sure that they will meet domestic and commercial competition. The result is a sophisticated yet uncomplicated design that produces 5kW of steady power and offers a long list of advantages:
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