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Introduction Ballard Power System is the world leader in developing and commercializing proton exchange membrane fuel cell power systems At the heart of this corporation is the Ballard Fuel Cell a propriety zero-emission engine that converts natural gas methanol or hydrogen fuel directly into electricity without combustion Over the last several years many large corporations including Daimler-Benz Chrysler Honda General Motors Nissan Hitachi Volkswagen Volvo and GPU International have invested large amounts of money into the production of the Ballard Fuel Cell in an attempt to create stationary electric power plants and zero-emission vehicles History of the Fuel Cell The fuel cell was first developed in the 1960s by General Electric for NASA It was considered as a definite possibility for an alternative power source for space program but the cost and size of the fuel cell stacks were tremendous By 1983 Geoff Ballard and a small team of physicists were able to develop the Proton Exchange Membrane PEM to produce nearly ten times as much energy while being only a fraction of the size How the PEM Fuel Cell Works A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that produces electricity silently without combustion Hydrogen fuel which is one of the most abundant chemicals in the universe and oxygen from the air are electrochemically combined in the fuel cell to produce electricity Heat and pure water vapour are the only by-products of the fuel cell The Ballard Fuel Cell is made up of two electrodes the anode and the cathode separated by a polymer membrane electrolyte Both the anode and the cathode are coated in a thin layer of platinum catalyst At the anode hydrogen fuel is changed into free electrons and protons The free electrons are sent in the form of usable electric current through an external circuit The remaining protons are sent through the membrane electrolyte to the cathode where they combine with oxygen and the electrons from the
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