Future Directions of Fuel Cell Science and Technology

  • Suddhasatwa Basu


Future development and implementation of fuel cell technology would depend on upward trend in global oil price, depletion of oil wells, fall in oil well discovery and the improvement of hydrogen energy infrastructure. The concern for environmental pollution and damage from the emission of automobile, thermal power plant, petroleum-crude refinery would catalyse the process of development unless financial benefits in terms of lowering of pollution damage cost are perceived by users and the manufacturers. Infrastructure development of the hydrogen energy encompasses production, distribution, dispensing and safety regulations of fuels (e.g., hydrogen, alcohol, esters and natural gases, naphtha and synthesis gases), which is directly fed to the fuel cells or to the fuel processor. Out of these hydrogen and alcohols can be generated from renewable sources (wind, solar power in water electrolysis, biomass gasification and fermentation) and others including hydrogen and alcohol can also be generated from fossil fuel. In the former case, green house gas emission is much lower and almost negligible. One can dream of zero emission of air pollutant and green house gases from automobiles and stationary power plants except for the case of biomass gasification. In the latter case, the air pollutant will be generated in a centralized location and cities will be free of pollution, which is otherwise generated from automobile using internal combustion engine. It should be noted that the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (H2FCV) and H2FCV-hybrid electric vehicle offers least environmental damage among all the advanced options. When fuelled with hydrogen derived from natural gas, pollution damage costs are 1/8 as large as for today’s gasoline internal combustion engine vehicles without CO2 sequestration and 1/15 as large with CO2 sequestration (Ogden et al. 2004). Although economics does not work out at present for PEMFC (Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell) based automobile or SOFC (Solid Oxide Fuel cell) based stationary power plant with present inadequate hydrogen infrastructure but it is hoped that with the increase in crude price, no new crude or gas reserve findings, increase in fuel cell stack efficiency and decrease in cost of the fuel cell and improvement of hydrogen energy infrastructure facility, the Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) and distributed power generation from fuel cell will become more profitable leaving aside the cost benefits due to less environmental pollution.


Fuel Cell Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell Internal Combustion Engine Anion Exchange Membrane 
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© Anamaya Publishers, New Delhi, India 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suddhasatwa Basu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Chemical EngineeringIndian Institute of Technology DelhiNew DelhiIndia

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