Hydrogen and Fuel Cells

  • Colin Tong


Hydrogen is a flexible energy carrier that can be produced from any regionally prevalent primary energy source. Moreover, it allows low-carbon energy to be stored and can be effectively transformed into any form of energy for diverse end-use applications. Hydrogen is particularly well suited for use in fuel cells that efficiently use hydrogen to generate electricity. For instance, small quantities of hydrogen with low-carbon footprint can be stored under restricted space and weight requirements to enable long-distance, low-carbon driving using fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Copious quantities of hydrogen can be stored over long periods of time, facilitating the integration of high shares of variable renewable energy (VRE) into the energy system for power and heat. Hydrogen-based systems such as power-to-fuel, power-to-power, or power-to-gas can be employed to make use of VRE that would otherwise be curtailed at times when supply outstrips demand. Fuel cells convert the chemical energy in fuels such as hydrogen directly into electricity. Unlike heat engines, which are limited by Carnot efficiency, fuel cells can theoretically achieve efficiency over 90%. Current fuel cell technology can exceed 60% efficiency, and R&D is underway to reach 70% efficiency or higher. When using hydrogen as a fuel, fuel cells emit only water. Fuel cell technology has matured enough that initial commercialization of fuel cell vehicles is already underway, but several technological barriers remain that impede commercialization and require research on materials, stack components, balance-of-plant subsystems, and integrated fuel cell systems. Additional fuel cell innovations will be required to meet cost and durability targets, including development of low-cost, corrosion-resistant metal bipolar plates and development of durable, low-cost balance-of-plant components. This chapter will give a brief review about hydrogen and its use in fuel cells.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin Tong
    • 1
  1. 1.ChicagoUSA

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