Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Broadly applied in fields involved with powering spacecraft, rural weather stations, and other remote research institutions, the hydrogen fuel cell has greatly improved access to a stable electrical energy source for even the most removed locations. The hydrogen fuel cell works by converting chemical energy from Hydrogen molecules to electrical energy through a small and contained chemical reaction.
Christian Friedrich Schönbein and William Grove pioneered the idea for the first fuel cell in 1838, with its creation occurring in 1839. This model used a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen gas to produce an electrical current. Attempts to use coal as a fuel source were also undertaken, but this model did not gain much traction within the fuel cell community.
Instead, by 1932 hydrogen fuel cell advances made by Cambridge professor Francis Bacon allowed for the fuel cell to become bigger, stronger, and more durable than the 1838 model. This led to partnership with the U.S. air force and vehicles including trucks, golf carts, and submersible vessels soon began being powered by fuel cells.
By the 1950s, NASA began using fuel cells to power manned space missions. Advances in the fuel cell model created by General Electric, allowed the fuel cell to be modified to survive the harsh conditions of space. These cells, named international fuel cells, powered the Apollo space missions by providing electricity and clean water for the astronauts.
With the environmental concerns and legislations of the 1970s, hydrogen fuel cells were pushed further into the limelight as their energy is considered clean compared to that of coal and oil powered machines. By the end of the century, fuel cells were common in every car, as the chemical reaction produced from the hydrogen generates no harmful tailpipe emissions.
Today, there is an ever-increasing demand for fuel cells as they make their way into a variety of new energy efficient and clean technologies in high demand. Although, the growth of the fuel cell has steadily increased from its original development, it is extremely likely that the clean and efficient energy produced from a fuel cell will become a chief source of electrical energy in the future.