Fuel cell technology is a renewable energy technology that involves the conversion of chemical energy from the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen directly into electric power, generating electricity and water in the process.
Unlike conventional power generation methods, fuel cells do not involve energy conversion through combustion of the fuel. The mechanism of fuel cell power generation is shown in the following image.
Reaction Process of Fuel Cell (Example)
1Hydrogen is supplied to the anode of the stack to separate hydrogen into hydrogen ions and electrons.
2Hydrogen ions move to the cathode through the electrolyte layer.
3Electrons move through the external circuit to the cathode to generate electrical current.
4Oxygen ions, hydrogen ions, and electrons meet in the air to produce water as a reaction product.
Source: Korea Renewable Energy Center
High Power Generation Efficiency
Unlike conventional power generation methods, fuel cells do not involve energy conversion through combustion of the fuel. This means lower energy loss and higher power generation efficiency.
The efficiency of fossil fuel turbine power generation is only 30 – 35%, but the efficiency of fuel cell power generation ranges from 45 to 60%. Not only that, its thermal efficiency is more than 30%, enabling a high total efficiency of about 80%.
Fuel cells produce power via electro-chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. Its only byproducts are electricity, water, and heat, which means that it is pollution-free energy with almost nonexistent environmental pollution. Its noise level is only 65dB, which is significantly lower than that of thermal power plants.
Minimal Geographic Restrictions
Because fuel cells can be produced into modules, the scale of fuel cell power generation can be easily adapted. Also, the energy conversion efficiency does not significantly change depending on the scale of the power generation facility, which means that it can be installed in varying sizes in varying locations depending on the purpose, without much restriction.
The fuel cell market is enjoying a solid growth backed by the U.S., Japan, and EU, which are developing the green industry for its renewable energy potentials.
The global fuel cell market delivered 60,000 units and produced 300MW of electricity in 2015, which is double the amount of 2012.
U.S. fuel cell manufacturers are exporting fuel cells to Korea, which imports 20% of the U.S. manufacturers’ production.
By region, fuel cell module production grew twofold, from 50MW in 2014 to 100MW in 2015.
[Global Fuel Cell Shipment Trend by Application]