Brave New Energy World
Is it possible to extract electricity from water? This question had been raised in one of our English classes in conjunction with our studies on the compatibility of economic and ecological necessities. Shortly before our well-deserved Easter holidays we followed an invitation to the RWE technology park in Essen. The heart of it is the fuel cell display centre. Two English-speaking guides informed us about the functioning of a fuel cell: It produces electricity from hydrogen and oxygen by converting chemical energy directly into electrical energy. During that process water and heat are produced. Furthermore, we learnt that there are different kinds of fuel cells: low temperature fuel cells (up to 200°C) and high temperature fuel cells (650°C to 1000°C).
This technology whose roots go back to 1839 has many advantages. On the one hand, it is highly efficient and environmentally friendly. On the other hand, this form of energy can be used nearly everywhere, even in such small electrical devices as mobile telephones.
Disadvantages seem to be the high production cost of such a fuel cell and the fact that energy is needed to isolate hydrogen.
In future, every household will perhaps have its own little fuel cell which produces electricity and heat. The cars we drive will emit only small amounts of water instead of harmful exhaust fumes like carbon dioxide, etc.
At the end of the tour we felt that we all had been excellently informed about the vast potential of this new energy form and our teacher, Mr Ebbers, received a fuel cell model for further instructions at school.
After a delicious meal in a well-known fast-food restaurant we went back to Bocholt. (Marcel Drunagel)