Fuel Cells Current Affairs
Germany has rolled out world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger train. These locomotives named iLint trains emit zero emissions, making them eco-friendly. This train technology offers greener and quieter alternative to diesel on non-electrified railway lines. These hydrogen trains are manufactured by French TGV-maker Alstom and are commercially running on 100km route between towns and cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde and Buxtehude in northern Germany.
Hydrogen trains are equipped with fuel cells that produce electricity by combining hydrogen with oxygen. This conversion process only emits steam and water, thus producing zero emissions. Excess energy produced is stored in ion-lithium batteries on board train.
These trains also make very little noise. Moreover, hydrogen fuel cells have advantages over batteries. Instead of recharging, they can easily be refueled like gas or diesel engine. It is also easier to build refueling infrastructure for these trains at railway stations.
These trains can run for around 1,000 km on a single tank of hydrogen, similar to the range of diesel trains. These trains offer attractive prospect to many cities scrambling to combat air pollution. The only disadvantage these hydrogen trains is that they are more expensive than fossil fuel-based trains.
Scientists from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) have switched on world’s largest artificial sun – a device developed to help shed light on new ways of making climate-friendly fuels.
The artificial sun is giant honeycomb-like set-up of 149 spotlights, officially known as Synlight. It is located in Juelich. It uses xenon short-arc lamps normally found in cinemas to simulate natural sunlight.
- The aim of Synlight experiment is to develop an optimal setup for concentrating natural sunlight to power a reaction to produce hydrogen fuel.
- Its goal is to eventually use actual sunlight rather than the artificial light produced using electricity which is costly and requires as much electricity in four hours as a four-person household would use in a year.
- Using the array, scientists are seeking to produce the equivalent of 10,000 times the amount of solar radiation by focusing the entire array on a single 8×8 in spot (20*20cm).
- When light from all the lamps is aligned to concentrate on a single spot, it can generate temperatures of around 3,500 degree Celsius i.e. temperature two to three times of a blast furnace.
Significance of this experiment
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, but on earth it is relatively rare. One way to manufacture hydrogen is to split water (H2O) into its two elemental components – Hydrogen and oxygen, using electricity in electrolysis process. Synlight experiment will bypass usage of electricity by tapping into the enormous amount of solar energy that reaches Earth from sun. Hydrogen obtained from it will be used to be used in fuel cells, a clean source of energy that does not produce carbon emissions.