How a fuel cell works
Power from chemistry
Fuel cells cleanly and efficiently convert chemical energy from hydrogen-rich fuels into electrical power and high-quality heat via an electrochemical process that is efficient and emits water rather than pollutants as there is no burning of the fuel.
Similar to a battery, a fuel cell is comprised of many individual cells that are grouped together to form a fuel cell stack. Each individual cell contains an anode, a cathode and an electrolyte layer. When a hydrogen-rich fuel such as clean natural gas or renewable biogas enters the fuel cell stack, it reacts electrochemically with oxygen (i.e. ambient air) to produce electric current, heat and water. While a typical battery has a fixed supply of energy, fuel cells continuously generate electricity as long as fuel is supplied.
FuelCell Energy’s SureSource power plants are based on carbonate fuel cell technology. The carbonate fuel cell derives its name from its electrolyte, which consists of potassium and lithium carbonates. To produce electricity, carbonate fuel cells generate hydrogen directly from a fuel source, such as natural gas or renewable biogas, via an internal reforming process. This approach, which is patented by FuelCell Energy, is a distinct competitive advantage of carbonate fuel cells as it allows readily available fuels to be used.