FUEL CELLS : A Zero Emission Quest

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

Technology developers all across the globe are inculcating the habit of

adding 'Green' label to their research and development, as the Kyoto Protocol

1997 has urged the countries to reduce their green house gas emission or pay if

they cross the stipulated carbon credits given to them.


However, business has to be done and expansion is always on the card for

growing businesses. Telecommunication industry is one of the fastest growing

businesses. The fossil fuel burnt in diesel generators is a burden on

telecommunications service providers' revenues as well as on the environment

because of carbon emissions.

Energy management service providers on BTS sites are now looking at fuel

cells as an option. There are a number of benefits of using fuel cells. Fuel

cells are able to operate as long as fuel is available and can be remotely

monitored from one location. There are technical provisions that alert the

operator long before re-fueling is required. Fuel cells have an edge over

battery as they require considerably less space required for the same period of

runtime. Unlike batteries, fuel cells does not require cooling.

Technically, fuel cells are electrochemical devices that combine fuel with

oxygen from the ambient air to produce electricity, and its by-product are heat

and water. It does not burn the fuel, but the electrochemical process in it is a

direct form of fuel-to-energy conversion. Thus fuel cells emit less carbon, in

case carbon based fuel is being used. Though hydrogen rich fuel is the preferred

choice for fuel cells which adds strength to idea of deploying these.


There are different kind of fuel cells based on their electrolyte. Fuels can

be both gaseous fuels such as Hydrogen and Natural Gas as well as liquid fuel

like methanol and ethanol. Out of the various fuel cells, Polymer Electrolyte

Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) aka Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cells and Alkaline

Fuel Cells (AFC) are considered most suitable for powering base stations, tower

antenna sites, remote power and wireless networks.

Both AFC and PEMFC use pure hydrogen based fuel.


People often confuse fuel cell with hydrogen cell but fuel cell can be

ideally environmental friendly if it uses pure hydrogen as fuel.

Arranging a hydrogen rich fuel for fuel cells is a big challenge as of now.

Scientists at National Chemical Laboratory in India have demonstrated 5kW fuel

cell power pack that could generate 5kW power based on hydrogen produced by

steam reforming of LPG. The hydrogen required to power PEM and AFC fuel cells

can either be generated by reforming hydrocarbon fuels, or by electrolysis of

water which can produce renewable fuels if the electricity required to power the

electrolyzer is generated from renewable energy sources. The equipment required

to produce and supply fuel is collectively referred to as infrastructure.

Environmental engineers are using fuel cells that run on wastewater. The

cells use microbes to break down organic matter in waste water. The matter in

turn releases hydrogen and electrons.

Apart from fuel it is the cost of fuel cells that is hindering its widespread

adaption. At present, the most competitive fuel cells cost up to fifty times

more per kW of engine power than a standard gasoline fueled internal combustion

engine, though fuel efficiency is twice as high. But prices are expected to fall

when the demand increases. Companies manufacturing fuel cells claim that its

cost is recovered over the fuel cells lifetime

Prasoon Srivastava