Fuel cells have existed for the last two centuries since their discovery in 1838. However, these have only been in use for the last two decades due to lack of sufficient technology to make fuel cells a widely used source of energy. Their use was previously restricted to applications such as the United States space program. However, it is hoped that as more countries look for alternative sources of energy that are environmentally friendly, they will adopt fuel cells as the main source of energy. This is because of its environmentally friendly nature, as this form of energy does not lead to pollution of the environment.
Apart from the main benefits associated with fuel cells in terms of environmental safety, other benefits as well result due to the use of fuel cells. Fuel cells use the element Hydrogen in the atmosphere, which is naturally occurring and is in abundance. Therefore, use of fuel cells does not put a strain on scarse natural resources in the environment. With sufficient Hydrogen to burn, fuel cells produce large amounts of heat. This heat can be used by human beings, and not put to waste. It can be tapped in quite a number of applications. For instance, it can be tapped and used in space heating, water heating, in addition to the byproduct of water that is produced.
Maximizing positive impacts
In order to maximize the positive benefits of fuel cell, intensive research, and development needs to be undertaken in order to realize ways that will lead to production of cheaper fuel cell, which can be easily afforded by majority of countries. Additionally, this research should address the efficiency level of fuel gas in order to make it be more preferred than the other energy sources. Since Hydrogen is an essential requirement in fuel cells, more research needs to establish on the cost-effective and safe ways through which this can be extracted from the environment. Additionally, ways of getting an alternative to Platinum in fuel cells should be established through research. Platinum serves as a catalyst in the fuel cells, but due to its scarcity, cannot be employed in a wide use. Alternatively, research should aim at discovering other different sources of Platinum.
No Air Pollution
Unlike other sources of energy, fuel cells are not lethal to the environment. Fuel cells do not lead to production of dangerous by-products. The only by-product is water, which is not harmful to the environment. The use of hydrogen as a fuel for fuel cells does not also lead to pollution of the environment. Unlike Gasoline, and diesel engines, fuel cells do not consume large quantity of fuel, thereby having a limited consumption of natural resources. Other energy sources also release dangerous gases such as Carbon Dioxide, which cause air pollution, which is responsible for the increased global warming experienced today.
Maximizing positive impacts
Environmental pollution, including air pollution is puts at risk the health and life of all living organisms. Since fuel cells is the best alternative energy source to address the issue of air pollution presented by other energy sources, it is wise if countries adopted the use of fuel cells as fast as possible. However, this cannot be a one-day project leading to the transformation from the other energy sources to fuel cells use. Research and development should be hastened in establishing the ways through which fuel cells can be made available for use by a large population. Governments and other related organizations and companies need to come together and pool together resources and efforts in creating people’s awareness of the fuel cells. This information about fuel cells could be made available to people across the globe through the internet, conferences, and print media. If this information reaches all the world population, the benefits of fuel cells will be known, therefore increasing the probability of the adoption of fuel cells as an alternative energy source, thus maximizing the positive impacts of fuel cells.
Currently, fuel cells are ranked among the most expensive energy sources available. These are presently priced at approximately $4500 per Kilowatt. Comparing this price with that of a diesel engine, fuel cells are far much expensive, as a diesel engine costs between $800 and $1000 per kilowatt. This high cost is aggravated by the cost of Platinum, which is used as a catalyst in fuel cells. Platinum is rare, therefore expensive. This high cost of fuel cells therefore, can be a big letdown to its adoption as an alternative energy source in the world today. The world comprises economically disadvantaged countries, which cannot afford this cost. This factor then will derail the adoptability of fuel cells.
Minimizing negative impacts
In order to minimize the negative impacts of fuel cells and boost its future use, scientists, governments, and private bodies need to come up with different strategies, which will be effective in solving the high cost issue, including the scarcity of Platinum, which fuel cells use as a catalyst. The core solution in this issue lies in research and development. Research and development needs to be advanced so that the cost of fuel cells is reduced, as well as maximization of its efficiency. Alternative sources of Platinum can be discovered through extensive research. Alternatively, a replacement of Platinum metal as a catalyst in fuel cells can be researched. If research yields the solution to this problem, governments need to set aside resources for the implementation of the research findings. The achievement of this will be a milestone toward the adoption of fuel cells as the main energy source in the world.
With the high level of environmental degradation today, countries seek technology that is environmental friendly. The type of energy source a country uses greatly impacts on the environment. Most energy sources are not environmental friendly; this is the reason why countries are in need of better energy sources. Fuel cells are the best option available as they do not result in air pollution, and are easy to process. Although this form of energy source has existed for quite a long time, its adoption has failed mainly because of its high cost and maintenance issues. However, if these two issues are solved successfully through research, fuel cells will be the best energy source adopted by the world. Given the threat the earth faces in the case of the environmental degradation today, the adoption of fuel cells will be a great achievement, mainly in the restoration of the environment.
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