About Fuel Cells

What is a fuel cell?

A fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity. Fuel cells are great substitutes for other energy conversion techniques such as internal combustion engines (ICEs), turbines, accumulators and batteries. Unlike diesel generators and other ICEs, fuel cells do not use combustion. Because they convert their energy directly into electricity, they can be more than twice as efficient as ICEs. A fuel cell operates much like a battery, but it does not store its energy internally. A fuel cell does not get depleted. It keeps operating, as long as fuel is supplied.

With hydrogen and oxygen as fuels, and no combustion, fuel cells generate zero-emission energy. Their main by-product is ultrapure water.
One fuel cell provides a tiny amount of direct current (DC) voltage. Fuel cells are normally combined in stacks to generate a larger voltage. The energy created by fuel cells can be used to power almost every energy end-usage, from small (1W) to large (multi MW).

What are the benefits of fuel cells?

Benefits of fuel cells are manifold. Characteristics of fuel cells include the following:

Efficient. Fuel cells can be more than twice as fuel efficient as internal combustion engines. Nedstack’s fuel cells offer high efficiency over a wide power range and are not dependent on an optimal production point in order to reach expected economics. There is neither fuel loss nor aging in standby mode.

Powerful. Fuel cells create a powerful current relative to their size. Their current is highly constant.

Versatile. Fuel cells can generate energy on-demand or continuously. They come modular and scalable to meet changing needs. They operate on a wide range of fuels.

Robust. Fuel cells have no moving parts, so their maintenance requirements and costs are low. They have virtually no downtime. Fuel cells operate reliably in a wide range of climates. They can be stationed both indoors and outdoors.

Sustainable. Fuel cells are low emission, PEM Fuel cells even zero emission. Governments stimulate fuel cell technology because of its potential to address issues of climate change, urban pollution and dependency on fossil fuels. And you can add noise pollution reduction to the list: as fuel cells have no moving parts, they do their work quietly.

Environmentally friendly. Even at the end of their life span, fuel cells remain environmentally friendly: most of their components are recyclable or reusable.

Attractive total cost of ownership. Their total cost of ownership, due to their superior fuel efficiency and low maintenance profile, are below those of alternatives in a growing number of applications.

Are fuel cells a new technology?

The concept of fuel cells has been around for almost two centuries. Sir William Grove, a Welsh attorney and physicist, first developed the fuel cell in 1839. It has taken a while to convert the knowledge into practical fuel cell applications. In the 1960s, NASA used fuel cells to generate electricity for space missions. Over the past decades, the technology has developed to mass-produce fuel cell stacks ever more cost-efficiently. By now, fuel cells have proven their reliability and safety over a range of applications.

When will fuel cells be more widely used?

With all that they have going for them, fuel cells still often require a higher initial investment than other energy alternatives. Hydrogen and fuel cell products are now economically viable in applications such as backup and off grid power supply, forklifts and other material handling aspects, city transportation, and power generation from hydrogen by-products. Fuel cell technology continues to be developed to meet the needs of a wider range of applications, including vehicular and home markets.