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PEM Fuel Cells, 2nd Edition by Frano Barbir

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Chapter One

Introduction

1.1 What is a Fuel Cell?

A fuel cell is an electrochemical energy converter that converts chemical energy of fuel directly into direct current (DC) electricity. Typically, a process of electricity generation from fuels involves several energy conversion steps:

1. Combustion of fuel converts chemical energy of fuel into heat.

2. This heat is then used to boil water and generate steam.

3. Steam is used to run a turbine in a process that converts thermal energy into mechanical energy.

4. Finally, mechanical energy is used to run a generator that generates electricity.

A fuel cell circumvents all these processes and generates electricity in a single step without involving any moving parts (Figure 1-1). It is this simplicity that ...

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