FuelCell Energy, Inc., a manufacturer of ultra-clean, efficient and reliable power plants, announced earlier this month that it had received $3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to evaluate the use of Direct FuelCells ® (DFC®) to”efficiently and cost-effectively separate carbon dioxide (CO2) from the emissions of existing coal-fired power plants. Efficient and cost-effective carbon capture can then lead to sequestration of this greenhouse gas, preventing its release into the atmosphere.”
For those of you interested in teaching your students about fuel cells and their underlying chemistry, you may find it useful to teach about fuel cells in the context presented above: how might fuel cells be used to mitigate CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants?
Perhaps start by introducing the basic parts of any fuel cell. The Smithsonian Institution provides a nice overview of fuel cells on their website.
A two page pdf is available from FuelCell Energy, Inc that describes and diagrams the “unique chemistry of the high efficiency carbonate fuel cell.” In this case, CO2-containing flue gas from coal-fired power plants is utilized as oxidant for the DFC® cathode. Natural gas, propane, or syngas can be used as the fuel cell anode feed to provide H2 needed to complete the electrochemical power generation cycle.
To learn more about carbonate fuel cells and other types of fuel cells under development visit the DOE’s EERE website.
Fuel Cell Energy also has an 8 page white paper(pdf) about Fuel Cell Technology.
The website HowStuffWorks has a three minute video about fuel cells.