Fundamentals of fuel cell

Unlike conventional power plants, the fuel cell’s chemical energy is converted directly into electrical energy. The detour of the conversion of chemical energy into heat, ie mechanical energy (turbine) and electrical energy (generator) is avoided.

Jules Verne, 1874:

The Energy of tomorrow is water that has been decomposed by electricity.

Hydrogen and oxygen will secure the energy supply of the earth.

The fuel cell is the future of direct energy conversion. An inexhaustible innovation potential and a number of advantages indicate that this technology will spread quickly and comprehensively. Not only specific types of fuel cells, but also intelligent test systems for the most diverse applications are offered by us.

In a fuel cell, using hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2), chemical is converted into thermal and electrical energy.

The hydrogen diffuses through the porous anode to the so-called three-phase zone, which consists of the catalytic surface, the electrolyte and hydrogen.

The hydrogen is split by the catalyst into protons and electrons.

On the way to the cathode, only the hydrogen protons H+ can pass through the polymer membrane. The electrons are forced to flow via an external circuit to the cathode.

Here then the electrical work is done at the consumer.

At the cathode, the oxygen diffuses through the porous electrode. Again, the reaction takes place at the three-phase zone. The oxygen forms water together with the hydrogen ions and the electrons.

Due to the reaction at the individual electrodes, different voltage potentials are formed.

The total voltage of a fuel cell is thus 1.23 V. Practically, however, this value is not reached because the fuel cell also has internal losses.

Structure of a fuel cell stack

To achieve higher voltage, multiple fuel cells are mounted in stacks in series.

A stack of fuel cells consists of end plate, pantograph plate, the respective fuel cells, which alternate with cooling cells and finally again a pantograph plate and end plate.