“What's a solar hydrogen fuel cell?”: New Technologies Explained
“Green fuel cells”. The word is deliberately misleading. Aren’t all fuel cells good for the environment? And don’t they all use clean energy? In reality, something called a “solar hydrogen fuel cell” can be considered the “greenest” fuel cell out there. But why is this? What exactly does a solar hydrogen fuel cell do? And why is it so “green”?
In this article, you’ll get a complete rundown of solar hydrogen fuel cells. We’ll cover everything from how the electrolyzer is powered to the benefits compared to other fuel cells. We’ll also take you through some solar hydrogen fuel cells on the market today.
Solar Hydrogen Fuel Cell
A solar hydrogen fuel cell system converts the energy from the sun’s rays into hydrogen, then uses this hydrogen to power a fuel cell. This means 100% of the hydrogen produced is from renewable sources.
The first part of this process uses solar panels and an electrolyzer. Solar panels capture the sun’s energy, transforming it into an electrical current that powers an electrolyzer. This electrolyzer then passes an electrical current through pure water, splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen.
Now we have hydrogen. This can be easily stored without losing energy (unlike batteries), or can be transported around the world in gas form on shipping tankers. But if we want to demonstrate the technology in, say, a classroom, we can now convert this hydrogen back into electricity.
The final stage of the process involves using a fuel cell to take this hydrogen and convert it to electricity. This completes what is called the solar-hydrogen energy cycle.
Solar–hydrogen energy cycle
Storing the sun’s energy in the form of hydrogen and then converting this hydrogen to electricity is what makes up the solar–hydrogen energy cycle. Buy why is this important? The sun only shines for a limited number of hours, so what happens to this clean energy at night time? Storing massive quantities in a battery is impractical due to cost, the materials required and the energy lost. But hydrogen means large amounts of clean energy can be stored efficiently, and then easily converted back to green electricity when it’s needed.
Solar Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Education
One of the best uses of solar hydrogen fuel cells is in education. These Solar Hydrogen Science Kits allow students to understand the complete solar–hydrogen energy cycle first hand. Mini solar panels allow them to create their own electricity, driving an electrolyzer to produce hydrogen from water. This hydrogen can then be stored and converted back into electricity through a fuel cell.
The set comes with its own curriculum that includes an experiment manual, assembly guide, flash animations and a background history of the technology.