Ed Fontes, COMSOL AB, and Eva Nilsson, Catella Generics, Stockholm, Sweden
Several properties make fuel cells attractive for electricity production, but the strongest incentives are high efficiency and high energy density.
The fuel cell provides a highly efficient conversion of the chemical energy in hydrogen, natural gas, or hydrocarbons into electrical energy. This is extremely beneficial for automotive applications and small-scale energy production for stationary uses. And because of their high energy density (energy per unit weight of the power source), fuel cells are superior to batteries in portable equipment.
The development of fuel-cell-powered equipment and vehicles has accelerated during the past five years. Competition among companies is growing, and the fight for a share of a potentially huge market has already started. Technology development is an important weapon at this stage, and small companies with technical skills in fuel-cell processes have become important partners to the large electronic and automotive companies.
Modeling provides valuable insights into the electrochemistry of the fuel cell and the processes that take place in the heart of the fuel-cell systemthe electrodes and electrolyte in the fuel-cell stack.