Just read an article in the Hindu on fuel cell fever in Japan, thought of sharing more about fuel cells with you.
The fuel cell technology draws energy from the chemical reaction when hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water. Developers say fuel cells for homes produce one-third less of the pollution that causes global warming than conventional electricity generation does.
The plain grey fuel cell used for home is about the size of a suitcase and sits just outside their door next to a tank that turns out to be a water heater. In the process of producing electricity, the fuel cell gives off enough warmth to heat water for the home.
The oxygen that the fuel cell uses comes from the air. The hydrogen is extracted from natural gas by a device called a reformer in the same box as the fuel cell. But a byproduct of that process is poisonous carbon monoxide. So another machine in the grey box adds oxygen to the carbon monoxide to create carbon dioxide, which is not poisonous, though it contributes to global warming. It seems the technology is still costly, but would pay back in 4-5 years.
East Japan Railway Company has researched and developed a fuel cell system for railcars as an independent type motive power system that reduces the burden on the global environment and can also overcome the problem of exhaustion of fossil fuels. The company is developing of the world’s first fuel cell hybrid railcar. Development of railcar system technology that uses fuel cells is also being promoted to utilize future breakthroughs in fuel cell technology. [JR]
Hydrogen stored in a tank aboard the train is supplied to the fuel cells, where it reacts with oxygen to produce electricity. Unused electricity and electricity generated during braking is stored in a secondary battery, which is used as an auxiliary power source. In addition to being energy-efficient, hydrogen fuel cells emit no carbon dioxide, only water. [src]