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what is a fuel cell and how a fuel cell work

What is a Fuel Cell ?

A fuel cell is a device used to convert the fuel directly into electricity. A fuel cell uses chemical reactions to takes place to generate electricity. A fuel cell consists of a positive electrode called anode and the negative electrode called cathode. The electrodes plays a major role for the generation of electricity. A fuel cell also consists of an electrolyte which acts as a medium to transfer the charged particles from one electrode to another electrode. Hydrogen is the fuel used in the fuel cell and also consists of smaller amounts of Oxygen. It also consists of a catalyst which is used to improve the speed of the chemical reaction. The main advantage of the fuel cell is that it does not pollute the environment which is very efficient.

Working of a Fuel Cell –

A fuel cell is a device sometimes known to be futuristic used in many gadgets and devices like cars, laptops, airplanes and many more. There are many methods for generating the electricity from the coal fired thermal power plants to the usage of atomic energy in the nuclear power plants. The efficiency of the power plants are also very low with a probability of 30 percent efficiency where as the efficiency of a fuel cell is 80 percent even when the minimum is considered. The power plants convert he fuel to heat and then the heat is converted to electricity. But the fuel cell stands out of the box. It converts the fuel directly into electricity without converting the fuel to heat energy. The best example of a fuel cell is the chemical reaction between the Hydrogen and the Oxygen molecules. Hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water with some energy release. The energy can be controlled and used easily for the power generation. The fuel cells used the cars uses methanol as it is free from explosion.


A fuel cell consists of an anode and cathode separated by a membrane or most electrolyte. Hydrogen is passed to the anode and the oxygen is passed to cathode. Both of them are connected to make the electrons flow. The hydrogen loses electrons and the hydrogen ions travel towards the cathode through the electrolyte. The oxygen and the hydrogen combine to form water molecules. But this can happen only when the electrons transfer from anode to cathode. This is similar to a battery. The battery can be charged to use for more time and the fuel cell must be supplied with hydrogen to run for more time.

In simple words, the working of the fuel cell may be explained as the opposite and reverse reaction of the electrolysis. The hydrogen and oxygen ions combine to form water in the Fuel cell where as the water splits into hydrogen and oxygen in the electrolysis. Alkali cells are also the type of Fuel cells, which are used for the electrical supply of satellites and rockets.  Potassium hydroxide is the chemical used in the alkali cells as the electrolyte. The same way, solid oxide cells work on natural gas which is used for boiling water and generating electricity too.

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