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Emerging Technologies – Hydrogen Energy Programme

Hydrogen is a clean fuel and an energy carrier that can be used for a broad range of applications as a possible substitute to liquid and fossil fuels.  The Government has supported research, development and demonstration projects on various aspects of hydrogen energy including its production, storage and use as a fuel for generation of mechanical/thermal/electrical energy.  The application of hydrogen in fuel cells for power generation has been demonstrated as a result of initiatives taken.

Hydrogen fuelled small power generating sets, two wheeler (motor cycles), three wheeler, catalytic combustion systems for residential and industrial sectors and fuel cell buses have also been developed and demonstrated.

Objectives :

  1. Study & evaluate the feasibility of production of hydrogen by various processes/ techniques, especially based on renewable energy methods
  2. Development of materials/processes/sub-systems/systems for storage of hydrogen
  3. Support projects on utilization of hydrogen as a fuel for stationary, automobile and portable applications
  4. Support projects for development of hydrogen infrastructure in public-private participation made for production, storage and applications of hydrogen, including safety, standards and codes, capacity building & public awareness
  5. Support demonstration projects relating to production, storage and applications of hydrogen


  1. Research in materials/processes/pilot plant for production, storage and use of hydrogen as a fuel
  2. Development and demonstration of applications of hydrogen for power generation and transport sector
  3. Training/manpower development

Fuel Cells

A fuel cell is a device that generates electricity by a chemical reaction. Every fuel cell has two electrodes called, respectively, the anode and cathode. The reactions that produce electricity take place at the electrodes. Every fuel cell also has an electrolyte, which carries electrically charged particles from one electrode to the other, and a catalyst, which speeds the reactions at the electrodes.

Hydrogen is the basic fuel, but fuel cells also require oxygen. One great appeal of fuel cells is that they generate electricity with very little pollution–much of the hydrogen and oxygen used in generating electricity ultimately combine to form a harmless byproduct, namely water.

A single fuel cell generates a tiny amount of direct current (DC) electricity. In practice, many fuel cells are usually assembled into a stack. Cell or stack, the principles are the same.

The purpose of a fuel cell is to produce an electrical current that can be directed outside the cell to do work, such as powering an electric motor or illuminating a light bulb or a city. Because of the way electricity behaves, this current returns to the fuel cell, completing an electrical circuit.

There are several kinds of fuel cells, and each operates a bit differently. But in general terms, hydrogen atoms enter a fuel cell at the anode where a chemical reaction strips them of their electrons. The hydrogen atoms are now “ionized,” and carry a positive electrical charge. The negatively charged electrons provide the current through wires to do work. If alternating current (AC) is needed, the DC output of the fuel cell must be routed through a conversion device called an inverter.

Oxygen enters the fuel cell at the cathode and, in some cell types (like the one illustrated above), it there combines with electrons returning from the electrical circuit and hydrogen ions that have traveled through the electrolyte from the anode. In other cell types the oxygen picks up electrons and then travels through the electrolyte to the anode, where it combines with hydrogen ions.

The electrolyte plays a key role. It must permit only the appropriate ions to pass between the anode and cathode. If free electrons or other substances could travel through the electrolyte, they would disrupt the chemical reaction.

Whether they combine at anode or cathode, together hydrogen and oxygen form water, which drains from the cell. As long as a fuel cell is supplied with hydrogen and oxygen, it will generate electricity.

The ability to support new catalysts and supports which reduce the cost, improve the performance and increase the stability of catalysts systems is important. New fuel cell systems, for instance, based on alkaline conducting membranes are an important area in reducing the total cost of fuel cells and developing new markets.

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