Hydrogen fuel cells
New forms of heat pumps and hydrogen heating are urgently needed to meet the 2050 zero carbon targets. Recent reports state that the country will not achieve its emission targets while continuing to use natural gas namely a fossil fuel for heating. Fuel cells are devices that convert chemical reactions into low-voltage DC electricity and heat. A fuel cell generates electricity through an electrochemical reaction, not combustion. In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are combined to generate electricity, heat and water. A great deal of investment and research is being carried out into the full potential of hydrogen fuel cells. A fuel cell is composed of an anode, cathode and an electrolyte membrane. A typical fuel cell works by passing hydrogen through the anode of a fuel cell and oxygen through the cathode. At the anode site, a catalyst splits the hydrogen molecules into electrons and protons. The protons pass through the porous electrolyte membrane, while the electrons are forced through a circuit, generating an electric current and excess heat. At the cathode, the protons, electrons and oxygen combine to produce water molecules.
Fuel cells that use pure hydrogen fuel are completely carbon-free, with their only by-products being electricity, heat and water. Some types of fuel cell systems are capable of using other fuels like natural gas, biogas, methanol and others. Because fuel cells generate electricity through chemistry rather than combustion, they can achieve much higher efficiencies than traditional energy production methods. To push the efficiency even higher, a fuel cell can be coupled with a combined heat and power system that uses the cell’s waste heat for heating or cooling applications.
Fuel cells are also scalable. This means that individual fuel cells can be joined with one another to form stacks. In turn, these stacks can be combined into larger systems. Fuel cell systems vary greatly in size and power, from combustion engine replacements for electric vehicles to large-scale installations providing electricity directly to the utility grid. Most importantly they are eco-friendly with no carbon emissions.