A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that converts the chemical energy of a fuel, such as hydrogen, natural gas, methanol, or gasoline, and an oxidant, such as air or oxygen, into electricity. Electrochemical devices generate electricity without combustion of the fuel and oxidizer, as opposed to what occurs with traditional methods of electricity generation. In principle, a fuel cell operates like a battery, but unlike a battery, it does not run down or require recharging. In fact, a fuel cell produces electricity and heat as long as fuel and an oxidizer are supplied. A fuel cell, like a battery, has a positively charged anode, a negatively charged cathode, and an ion-conducting material, called an electrolyte. The main fuel used in fuel cells is hydrogen. An introduction to hydrogen production and use is given in Chapter 1.
An electrochemical reaction is a reaction in which one species, the reducing agent, is oxidized (loses electrons) and another species, the oxidizing agent, is reduced (gains electrons).
The direct conversion of chemical energy to electrical energy is more efficient and generates much fewer pollutants than traditional methods that rely on combustion. Therefore, fuel cells can generate more electricity from the same amount of fuel. Furthermore, by avoiding the combustion process that occurs in traditional power-generating methods, the generation of pollutants during the combustion process is minimized. Some of the pollutants that are significantly lower for fuel cells are oxides of nitrogen and unburned hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide, which is a poisonous gas.
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Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.