Solare Powered Fuel Cell Project#2

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Nov 21, 2013 (3 years and 4 months ago)

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5/8/2012



Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

|
Ahmad Alazmi,
Paul Lapsansky
, Roberto Mejia

S
OLAR
P
OWERED

H
YDROGEN
F
UEL
C
ELL


Solar Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

Ahmad Alazmi, Paul Lapsansky, Roberto Mejia


Abstract


We have selected for our group research project topic to build and
demonstrate a solar powered hydrogen
fuel cell. The reason we have
chosen this project is that it involves many of the topics that we have
covered in class su
ch as fuel cell technology, electrolysis

and
photo
vol
taic
(PV) panels
.
The fuel cell we have chosen to build is a simple design tha
t
requires only ord
inary tap water for the electrolyte

and
solar power to
generate the required
electricity for the electrolysis.
Once the electrolysis is
under way, the power can
be
removed from the fuel cell which than works
as a battery. This is ideal for situations that require power during night or
times when the sun light is not available.
An additional benefit of the
hydrogen fuel cell

is

since it only uses oxygen and hydrogen

it produces no
greenhouse gases. This coupled with
the
use of a photo
volta
ic

for the
source of electricity makes it very good for the environment. For these
reasons, we have chosen to build and demonstrate a working model of a
solar powered hydrogen fue
l cell.


Introduction


Fuel cells are devices for generating electric power.

They share many of the
characteristics of a battery: silent operation, no moving parts and an
electrochemical reaction to generate power.
They p
roduce electricity by
combining
hydrogen and oxygen over a catalyst such as platinum.

There
are several different types of fuel cell
s
but the most researched type is the
proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell which contains platinum
for its
Solar Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

Ahmad Alazmi, Paul Lapsansky, Roberto Mejia


catalyst
.

PEM fuel c
ells are capable of
rep
lacing batteries

or generators in
portable equipment and vehicles.

Although PEM fuel cells are

the most
common type

of fuel cell
, fuel

cell technology is not limited to just PEM cells.
There are many other types that have varying advantages and
disadvant
a
ges over PEM cell. Table 1 provides a list of the most prevalent
types of fuel cells currently available.


Table
1


Figures 1 shows how a typical solar powered hydrogen fuel cell operates.
During the day when sun light is availa
ble, the solar panels provide the
powe
r for the electrolysis process. During the electrolysis process the
hydrogen and oxygen that is separated from the electrolyte is stored in
Solar Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

Ahmad Alazmi, Paul Lapsansky, Roberto Mejia


separate tanks. During the night when the sun’s energy is not available, the

hydrogen and oxygen are reintroduced to the fuel cell catalyst generating
electricity.



Figure
1

Figure 2 provides a more detailed view of the inner workings of a
commercial PEM fuel cell.

Solar Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

Ahmad Alazmi, Paul Lapsansky, Roberto Mejia



Figure
2


Experimental Solar Powered

Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Our solar powered hydrogen fuel cell is a simple design meant more for
demonstration purposes than actual use.
The design inexpensive costing
less than $40 (less if you already have a solar panel), can be
built using
mostly kitchen utensils and does not require any dangerous chemicals, only
tap water

(Figure 3)
.
The only uncommon component it requires is the
platinum wire catalyst which can be purchased on the internet for $15. The
following is the comple
te parts list for the device:



One foot of platinum coated
nickel wire (catalyst).



A popsicle stick or similar small piece of wood or plastic.



9V solar panel.

Solar Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

Ahmad Alazmi, Paul Lapsansky, Roberto Mejia




A glass of water (electrolyte).



A volt meter.


Figure
3


How
it works

Our simple fuel cell involves two processes to produce electricity.
Power
from the solar panel induces the
e
lectrolysis of water into hydrogen a
nd
oxygen gasses
.

Once the solar panel is disconnected, recombining of the
hydrogen and oxygen begins producing electricity.
The electrode connected
to the negative side of the solar panel has electrons that are being pushed
by the solar panel.

Electrons in the electro
de
then
combine with water
molecules.

The water molecules each give up a hydrogen atom, to form
molecules of hydrogen (H

), leaving negatively charged ions of OH
-

(Figure
4)
.

Solar Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

Ahmad Alazmi, Paul Lapsansky, Roberto Mejia



Figure
4


The p
ositive side of the solar panel pulls
electrons from the water molecules.

The water molecules split into positively charged hydrogen atoms (single
protons), and oxygen molecules (O

).

The oxygen molecules form bubbles
at the electrode, and the protons migrate away from the positively charg
ed
electrode

(Figure 5)
.

Solar Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

Ahmad Alazmi, Paul Lapsansky, Roberto Mejia



Figure
5


When we remove the solar panel, the catalytic action of the platinum causes
the hydrogen (H

) molecules to break up, forming positively charged
hydrogen ions (H+, or protons), and electrons

(Fi
gure 6)
.


Solar Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

Ahmad Alazmi, Paul Lapsansky, Roberto Mejia



Figure
6


At that other electrode, the oxygen molecules in bubbles on the platinum
surface draw electrons from the metal, and then combine with the hydrogen
ions (from the reaction at the other electrode) to form water

(Figure 7)
.

The oxygen electrode has lost two electrons to each oxygen molecule.

The
hydrogen electrode has gained two electrons from each hydrogen molecule.

The electrons at the hydrogen electrode are attracted to the positively
charged oxygen electr
ode.

Electrons travel more easily in metal than in
water, so the current flows in the wire, instead of the water.

In the wire, the
current can do work, such as moving a meter.

Solar Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

Ahmad Alazmi, Paul Lapsansky, Roberto Mejia



Figure
7


Practical Applications

O
ur fuel cell is meant primarily for
demonstration and
experimentation;

however,
there are currently many practical applications of solar powered
hydrogen fuel c
ells

already in use. Honda makes a hydrogen fuel cell
powered vehicle called the
FCX Clarity

(Figure 8). It

is presently in limited
release, offers an EPA estimated 60 MPK (miles per kilogram) and has an
estimated range of up to 240 miles.
Honda has
also
begun work on a
domestic solar
-
powered hydrogen refueling station that is smaller and
inten
ded to fit within

a home

garage

(Figure 9)
. Designed to work in
conjunct
ion with the
FCX Clarity, the charging station is also compatible with
a "Smart Grid" energy system.

Honda is also testing a public version of the
same charging station (Figure 10).

Solar Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

Ahmad Alazmi, Paul Lapsansky, Roberto Mejia



Figure
8



Figure
9

Solar Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

Ahmad Alazmi, Paul Lapsansky, Roberto Mejia



Figure
10


Conclusion

Some of the benefits to using our solar powered hydrogen fuel for
demonstration and experimentation are: it is s
imple and inexpensive
to
build
, safe and chemical free

(only uses or
dinary tap water)

and only by
-
product is water. Also,

PEM fuel cell is the most widely used and
researched.

The one drawback

is the platinum catalyst is very expensive in
larger quantities.
Fortunately
, resea
rch at the Department of Energy and Los
Alamos Laboratories is being conducted into finding less expensive
alternatives to platinum such as iron and cobalt.






Solar Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Research Project #2
-

ECET 521

Ahmad Alazmi, Paul Lapsansky, Roberto Mejia


References

Scitoys.com: 19395 Montevina Road Los Gatos, CA 95030.
h
ttp://www.scitoys.com

Hon
da Motor Co. LTD. Data Sheets. http://www.honda.com

Field, Simon Quellen,
Gonzo Gizmos: Projects & Devices to Channel Your
Inner Geek
. Chicago Review Press, 2003.


DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory (2011, April 21). Cheaper hydrogen
fuel cells: Utility
of non
-
precious
-
metal catalysts documented.