Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells to power electric cars and to burn in internal combustion engines. Fuel cells are electrochemical energy conversion device. They convert hydrogen and oxygen into water, and in the process create electricity.
There are many different types of fuel cells: polymer exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC), solid oxide fuel cells, alkaline fuel cells, molten-carbonate fuel cells, phosphoric acid fuel cells and direct-methanol fuel cells.
PEMFCs are what are envisioned to power vehicles in the future. They are composed of four parts: the anode (negative conductor that channels electrons freed from the hydrogen molecule into the external circuit, and disperses hydrogen gas equally over the catalyst’s surface), the cathode (positive conductor that conducts electrons back from the external circuit to the catalyst to combine with the hydrogen and oxygen to form water), the electrolyte or proton exchange membrane (blocks electrons and conducts positively charged ions) and the catalyst (made of platinum nanoparticles very thinly coated onto carbon paper or cloth, and facilitates the reaction between oxygen and hydrogen).
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