The fuel cell has emerged as a promising alternative to traditional combustion engines used in automobiles and others. Like a combustion engine, a fuel cell uses chemical fuel like hydrogen fuel as its energy source. However, like a battery, the chemical energy is directly converted to electrical power without a combustion step.
In fuel cell technology, fuel such as hydrogen is brought into the anode compartment and an oxidant like oxygen into the cathode compartment. The overall reaction produces water instead of carbon dioxide produced by combustion engines due to the use of fossil fuels like petrol and diesel. Indeed, Fuel cell technology plays a significant role in the future of the hydrogen fuel economy toward decarbonisation of the world.
The primary components of the fuel cell are an ionic conducting electrolyte, a cathode and an anode material. Currently, at the University of Namibia and our international collaborators, we have fabricated several materials for fuel cells. For example, our recent paper has manufactured a cubic zirconia thin film with potential application for ionic conduction electrolyte in hydrogen fuel cells. Additionally, most of the basic materials for the fuel cell can be sourced locally or in SADC. South Africa is known for its abundance of platinum which is a critical anodic and cathodic material. Zirconia and polymer-based materials, which are essential components of electrolytes, can be sourced locally in Namibia.
Under the proposed Namibia Green Hydrogen Research Institute hosted at UNAM, we plan to host several researchers, students (postgraduate and post-doc) under this research umbrella. As a result, a hydrogen fuel cell prototype based on several materials that can be tested in automobiles can be produced. The feasibility study in these areas can range from the analysis on the application of fuel cells in cars, the environmental impact associated with the emission of excessive water vapour in the atmosphere, to mention a few. To achieve these initiatives, materials and equipment need to be procured for this research.