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Fuel cell systems: efficient, flexible energy conversion for the 21st century

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3 Author(s)
Ellis, M.W. ; Dept. of Mech. Eng., Virginia Polytech. Inst. & State Univ., Blacksburg, VA, USA ; von Spakovsky, M.R. ; Nelson, D.J.

At the beginning of the 21st century, fuel cells appear poised to meet the power needs of a variety of applications. Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy to electricity and thermal energy. Fuel cell systems are available to meet the needs of applications ranging from portable electronics to utility power plants. In addition to the fuel cell stack itself, a fuel cell system includes a fuel processor and subsystems to manage air, water thermal energy, and power. The overall system is efficient at full and part-load, scaleable to a wide range of sizes, environmentally friendly, and potentially competitive with conventional technology in first cost. Promising applications for fuel cells include portable power, transportation, building cogeneration, and distributed power for utilities. For portable power a fuel cell coupled with a fuel container can offer a higher energy storage density and more convenience than conventional battery systems. In transportation applications, fuel cells offer higher efficiency and better part-load performance than conventional engines. In stationary power applications, low emissions permit fuel cells to be located in high power density areas where they can supplement the existing utility grid. Furthermore, fuel cell systems can be directly connected to a building to provide both power and heat with cogeneration efficiencies as high as 80%

Published in:

Proceedings of the IEEE  (Volume:89 ,  Issue: 12 )