Batteries and fuel cells are ever popular subjects in the ongoing conversation about how we power the world we live in. They are steadfast becoming important components of the energy chain to power things throughout our daily lives. Despite their rising popularity, many people are yet unaware of the differences between the two, their different use applications and why they are increasingly important in our lives.
A battery is a cell or series of cells producing an electrical current through chemical reactions within the cells. Batteries are self-contained and will store a finite amount of energy that is depleted when the reaction reaches completion. Some batteries are intended for one-time use, while others may be recharged multiple times using an electrical source. Some common applications for batteries are consumer electronics like cellphones, car batteries and electric vehicles, pacemakers, emergency response radios, backup power supplies for servers and telephone exchanges and as a power source for off grid homes with inverters.
A fuel cell, like a battery, produces electrical current through a chemical reaction, but does so using a system in which a fuel (normally hydrogen, methanol, natural gas, and sometimes diesel fuel) is constantly supplied, and products (water vapor, sometimes CO2) are constantly removed. Therefore, fuel cells are direct converters of the energy derived from the fuels rather than a storage system for the energy like a battery is. Some typical uses for fuel cells are in vehicles as an alternative to combustion engines, backup power generators.
Despite the differences between batteries and fuel, they share one thing in common: they are both integral to the future of energy as we move away from fossil fuels. Both are gaining wider implementation in our daily lives, primarily when it comes to powering transportation, and are key to cleaner transportation.