Friday, December 23, 2011

Emergence of the Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

By Michael Vargas

While hybrid cars use the combination of electric with fossil fuels, the result have been only a relatively small increase in fuel efficiency. Electric cars are becoming more popular, but they have a very limited range when compared to gas engines. Natural gas has been providing heat in homes for decades, but it use in cars has been limited due to concerns over the pressurization.

This leaves the fuel cell as perhaps the best chance to produce a practical energy source for vehicles that has the range of gas engines, but provides a clean energy alternative. A solid oxide fuel cell produces electricity from the oxidization of the fuel source. The electrochemical conversion provided in the cell creates a highly efficient method of power generation for a vehicle that's both stable, has few emissions and a relatively low cost.

The development of the technology dates back to the 20th century, but the program got a significant boost almost a decade ago when more government incentives were used to help promote the program. Today the fuel cell car is still in the experimental stages though it has progressed significantly over the past 10 years. The recent hikes in oil prices have help to expand interest in the development of the fuel cell.
The major technical problems that must be overcome with the cell centers on the high operating temperature needed to produce the electrical current. This result is a longer start up time for the fuel cell that includes mechanical and chemical issues that have yet to be fully fleshed out.

Current research to improve the fuel sources is currently being conducted by several companies around the world. The main effort is to reduce the temperature needed to provide the electrical current from the cell which would significantly reduce the cost of the materials needed to house the fuel cell.

One of the more promising areas of research, though it is still in the initial stages is to combine gas turbines to the cell to help augment the chemical reaction. This would be a similar step to the current hybrid vehicles on the market which combine electrical batteries and a gas powered engine.

There are many different chemicals including fossil fuels that are being tested, particularly natural gas and diesel fuels to try and reduce the temperature but these fuels have their own issues which interfere with the electrical process of the cell itself.

With the growing need for renewable energy sources around the world, solving the final issues of the fuel cell may revolutionize the way vehicles are powered leading to a cleaner, healthier environment with more resources being used to solve other energy concerns.

Michael Vargas is the founder and principal consultant of Atlas Project Support. Mr. Vargas has more than 10 years of construction and energy accounting and utilization experience, and is a Certified Business Energy Professional through the AEE, a California Energy Commission Certified Energy Plans Examiner, LEED Green Associate and GBCI Advisory Panel Member.. Mr. Vargas also holds a BSBA from SDSU, MBA and MPM from Keller Graduate School. For more information contact Michael at or via the web at

Article Source: Emergence of the Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

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