Not long ago, my country’s first fuel cell yacht “Lihu” completed the trial voyage. This marks a key step in the application of my country’s fuel cells in ship power.
Different from traditional ship power devices, fuel cells are devices that can convert chemical energy into electrical energy without combustion. They belong to the fourth power generation technology in the 21st century after hydropower, thermal power and atomic power.
When it comes to the birth and development of fuel cells, we have to go back to 1839. At that time, the British physicist William Grove invented the fuel cell and used it to light the lights of the Lecture Hall in London. Later, due to the constraints of materials, funds, markets and other factors, the research and development of fuel cells has been repeated several times, and it was not developed until the 20th century.
In the early stage of fuel cell development, the focus was on professional applications such as military space and distributed power generation above the kilowatt level. However, with the advancement of technology, it is more widely used, not only in the fields of military, space, power plants, but also in ships, motor vehicles, mobile devices and residential households.
In recent years, my country’s shipbuilding industry has continued to develop and progress, and various studies have continued to deepen. Traditional ship power devices such as diesel engines and gas turbines have shortcomings such as low energy efficiency conversion rate, heavy environmental pollution, and single fuel. For many years, scientists have been working on finding a way to use energy with high energy efficiency without polluting the environment, and fuel cells are an ideal choice.
–high efficiency. The fuel cell directly converts the chemical energy of the fuel into electrical energy, so it does not generate a large amount of exhaust gas and waste heat, which can avoid the loss of intermediate conversion energy, and the conversion efficiency exceeds 50% (the conversion efficiency of traditional diesel engines or gas turbines is generally 25% ~ 40%) , high efficiency means high economy.
- Low emissions. When fuel cells use hydrogen-rich gas such as natural gas as fuel, carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by more than 40% compared with traditional heat engines, which is very important to alleviate the global greenhouse effect. In addition, only electrochemical reactions are carried out in the use of fuel cells, and there is no high-temperature combustion process, so almost no nitrogen and sulfur oxides are emitted, which reduces the pollution to the atmosphere.
- Diversification of fuels. For fuel cells, any substance containing hydrogen atoms can be used as fuel, such as natural gas, petroleum, biogas, alcohol, etc. To this end, fuel cells are very suitable for energy diversification needs, which can not only reduce the dependence on petroleum
products, but also slow down the depletion of mainstream energy sources.
In addition, fuel cells also have the advantages of low noise, high reliability, convenient operation, and easy construction, which are favored by people.
However, in the field of civil ships, fuel cells currently do not have the conditions for large-scale application, which are mainly affected by various factors such as their cost, safety, and lifespan. At the same time, fuel cell fuel supply and extraction, safety, and response time also need to be further improved.
“With the continuous innovation of technology and the increasingly stringent requirements for ship emissions in international conventions and regulations, fuel cells will likely break the current pattern of marine power systems.” Relevant researchers said, whether fuel cell ships can “play a leading role in the near future” “, it remains to be seen.