Renewable Energy II

Discover the lesser known renewable energy sources and how these technologies are changing the future of fossil fuel dependence.


I’m sorry, but your discussion of hydrogen fuel cells includes a distracting amount of inaccuracies. To begin, we first have to understand the structure of a hydrogen atom. The nucleus exists as only a single proton, as in protium, or as a single proton and single neutron, as in deuterium. Around the nucleus exists an electron, distinct from the nucleus. With that out of the way, a hydrogen fuel cell cannot convert water directly into electricity. It works in much the same way a battery does, harnessing the chemical energy produced from a pair of redox reactions between hydrogen and oxygen. The byproducts of this method of energy generation are water - not oxygen, heat, and electricity, which is the thing we want to generate. While hydrogen fuel cells are a wonderful way to generate portable electricity for use in automobiles or spacecraft, they are not a practical way of generating electricity for use in stationary applications by the very virtue of their fuel source. Electrolysis is used to remove hydrogen from the oxygen atoms in water, which costs electricity to do. Now that you have free hydrogen, you can pass it through your fuel cell, generating electricity on command, but you now have to deal with losses, since getting the hydrogen from the water cost more electricity than you’re generating via the fuel cell. Since hydrogen does not occur often in its molecular form in our atmosphere, electrolysis is our only real method of gathering it, so, the hydrogen fuel cell will forever be a poor method of generating electricity. For a more in-depth explanation of hydrogen fuel cells, I’m going to attach a link.
It really seems like you’re confusing hydrogen fuel cells with energy generation via fusion. While fusion is a hugely promising semi-hypothetical method of generating energy (we can use fusion energy to generate electricity today, but that method involves blowing up hydrogen bombs inside of large underground chambers filled with water, so most don’t consider those methods practical), it is not currently in use. Fusion works by forcing the isotopes of deuterium and tritium together to the point where the nuclei touch, creating helium, releasing the extra neutron, and also a bunch of heat. It’s the source of energy our sun is using to generate its heat, and would be the holy grail of electrical generation if we got over the steep hurdles we currently face in making it work.

Hey @02emomik22806_550 , thanks for the feedback! You’re super right about the process that Hydrogen Fuel Cells use to generate electricity. That was definitely my mistake and I’ll add a show note on the video for future students.

One thing I noticed though is the APES exam doesn’t cover this concept as in depth as you have. I simplified it based on the course description, but this comment will help give a more in-depth explanation for students that are interested!!! I have attached a picture of what the AP Exam Board would like students to know for everybody’s reference :slight_smile: The essential knowledge section is what students must know for the exam.

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