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The Fuel Cell.

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The Fuel Cell It seems strange to think these could be the last days of the internal combustion engine, which has dominated personal transportation for the second half of the 20th century. Much as it has contributed to extraordinary mobility for many people, countries to rely heavily on oil from politically unstable regions, and intensified the long-term threat to global warming. It seems possible that some time in the next decade, auto-manufacturers will be ready to market new, super energy-efficient cars powered by fuel cells that drive powerful, high-torque electric motors. Such vehicles will produce virtually no polluting gases such as carbon dioxide, which contributes to the greenhouse effect, or oxides of nitrogen or sulphur that are the main causes of acid rain. They can be fuelled by hydrogen from a variety of secure energy sources. The development of fuel cell depends on a detailed understanding of one of the simplest chemical reactions: the burning of hydrogen to make water. ...read more.


There is another way to induce this reaction. Throwing a pinch of palladium on charcoal into the gas jar as the same effect as the glowing split. The palladium on charcoal acts as a catalyst. The surface of the palladium ha sites where reactant molecules can attach themselves. Reactant molecules absorbed onto these sites can find themselves close enough together to react and in the right orientation. Bond breaking and formation occurs much more easily when the reactant molecules are aligned in the right manor, so the catalysts lowers the activation energy of the reaction. A heterogeneous catalyst, such as palladium, is effectively a 'dating agency' bringing together with ease molecules that by themselves have difficultly meeting productivity. Catalysts like this are now set to produce a revolution in the way we use fuels. Producing usable energy by fuels in highly inefficient process. Petrol and diesel engines are never more than 25-30% efficient. The rest of the energy produced during the burning of these fuels merely go to heat up the surroundings. ...read more.


They are based on a design pioneered for the space programme, but Ballard have made significant improvements to the design, so that the electrodes consists of thin sheets of a porous carbon-based conducting material coated with a small amount of platinum catalyst. These sandwich the electrolyte, which is an ultra-thin conducting membrane. The first vehicles powered by fuel cells include a bus cruising the Vancouver streets, and commercial vehicles on test at Daimler-Benz's research headquarters near Ulm in Germany. They use stacks of 24 of the fuel cell units, weighing a total of about 50 Kg. In the case of the Vancouver bus, this amounts to the delivery of 125 horsepower to the bus's powerful electric motor, and gives a range of about 100 miles. Fuel cells score better than vehicles running off conventional rechargeable batteries. No matter how efficient these batteries can be made be to run, ultimately they depend on non-renewable, polluting forms of electricity generators. Instead of pollution coming from the vehicle, the use of conventional batteries merely shifts those emissions back to the power stations, which generates the electricity to recharge the batteries. ...read more.

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