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What is a Hydrogen Fuel Cell?

A hydrogen fuel cell uses the chemical energy of hydrogen to produce electricity. It is a clean form of energy with electricity, heat and water being the only products and by-products. Fuel cells offer a variety of applications, from transportation to emergency back-up power, and can power systems as large as a power plant or as small as a laptop. RyanCo Construction makes fuel cell install manageable with their expertise and experience in the industry.

Fuel cells provide advantages over traditional combustion-based technologies, including greater efficiencies and lower emissions. Since hydrogen fuel cells only emit water, there are no carbon dioxide emissions or other pollutants released into the atmosphere. Fuel cells are also quiet during operation as they have fewer moving parts than combustion technologies. RyanCo Construction is working hard at making Hydrogen Fuel Cell Installs and accessibility more attainable for companies, hospitals, schools, fueling stations, and more!


hydrogen fuel cell ryanco construction

How Does A Hydrogen Fuel Cell Work?

Hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity using a chemical reaction. Each fuel cell has two electrodes; a negative anode and a positive cathode. The reaction to produce the electricity happens at these electrodes, with an electrolyte carrying electrically charged particles between them and a catalyst to speed up the reactions.

Hydrogen acts as the basic fuel in a hydrogen fuel cell, but the cell also needs oxygen to work. One of the largest advantages of these fuel cells is that they generate electricity with very little pollution, as the hydrogen and oxygen used to generate the electricity combines to produce water as a by-product. Cells that use pure hydrogen as fuel are completely carbon-free.

Other types of fuel cell system include those that use hydrocarbon fuels like natural gas, biogas, or methanol. Because fuel cells use an electrochemical reaction rather than combustion, they can achieve higher efficiencies than with traditional energy production methods. This can be improved further by with combined heat and power generators that use waste heat from the cell for heating or cooling applications.

The process by which a fuel cell works can be summarized as follows:

  1. Hydrogen atoms enter at the anode, while oxygen is fed to the cathode
  2. The hydrogen atoms are separated into protons and electrons at the anode
  3. The now positively charged protons pass through the membrane (or electrolyte) to the cathode, with the negatively charged electrons take a different route as they are forced through a circuit to generate electricity
  4. After passing through the circuit and the membrane accordingly, the electrons and protons meet at the cathode where they combine with oxygen to produce heat and water as by-products.

Single fuel cells do not generate a large amount of electricity, so they are arranged into stacks to create enough power for their intended purpose, whether that is powering a small digital device or a power plant.

Fuel cells work like batteries but, unlike batteries, they will not run down or need recharging and can continue to produce electricity while the fuel source (in this case, hydrogen) is supplied.

Being comprised of an anode, cathode and an electrolyte membrane, there are no moving parts in a fuel cell, making them silent in operation and highly reliable.

Pros and Cons

There are a number of pros and cons associated with hydrogen fuel cells, the benefits include:

  • Durability
  • Energy Security
  • Fuel Flexibility
  • High Efficiencies
  • Low / Zero Emissions
  • Quiet Operation
  • Reliability
  • Scalability

The challenges associated with fuel cells include:

1. Cost

The cost of fuel cells can be high given the use of platinum as one of the largest component materials. There is work underway to find non-platinum catalyst approaches

2. Hydrogen Extraction

The extraction of hydrogen for use in fuel cells can take a lot of energy to achieve, undermining the green benefits of fuel cell use

3. Infrastructure

There is a need to create the infrastructure to support the growth in fuel cell use, including retrofitting vehicles

4. Safety

The flammable nature of hydrogen poses evident safety concerns for its widespread use

In the emerging Hydrogen Fuel Market, RyanCo Construction is working hard at making the ability for Hydrogen a more common and accessible fuel source!

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