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DuPont Fuel Cells, Delivering on the Promise of Clean Energy

Questions & Answers

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions that we have received about fuel cells and fuel cell components. If you have other questions for us, please use our online contact form.


What is a fuel cell?

A fuel cell is an energy conversion device that combines a fuel and air to directly produce electrical power. Fuel cells offer the promise of high efficiency and low emissions when compared to conventional technologies. If pure hydrogen is used as a fuel, the only products of this process are heat, electricity, and water.

How does a fuel cell differ from traditional methods of energy generation (like batteries)?

Unlike a battery, a fuel cell does not store energy. Instead, it converts energy from one form to another (much like an engine) and will continue to operate as long as fuel is fed to it. However, unlike internal combustion generators, fuel cells convert chemical energy directly into electricity without an intermediate conversion into mechanical power.

What are the benefits of fuel cells?

Fuel cells can provide clean energy for people. Fuel cells emit no pollution when used. The benefits of using fuel cells include:

  • clean, safe, quiet performance
  • high energy efficiency
  • low emissions
  • ease in operating

What are the types of fuel cells?

There are five types of fuel cells and they are defined by the type of electrolyte used in the fuel cell. These include:

  • proton exchange membrane (PEM)
  • alkaline
  • phosphoric acid
  • molten carbonate
  • solid oxide

What are the types of PEM fuel cells?

There are three main types of PEM fuel cells:

  • hydrogen (pure)
  • reformed hydrogen
  • direct methanol (DMFC)

What is the difference between the various types of PEM fuel cells?

The differences in PEM fuel cells stem from how the hydrogen needed for the reaction is obtained.

The hydrogen used in reformed hydrogen systems is obtained from methanol or a hydrocarbon such as methane or propane. The reason it is called reformed hydrogen is that the methanol or hydrocarbon is processed in a device known as a reformer to produce the hydrogen just upstream of the fuel cell.

In a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) system, methanol is converted directly to hydrogen without the use of a reformer.

Where are fuel cells used?

Fuel cells have many applications today, and the list is growing fast. There are three basic market segments that fuel cells satisfy:

  • portable/battery substitution (laptops)
  • transportation (automobiles and buses)
  • distributed power

What is DuPont’s experience in fuel cells?

From research to commercial product releases, DuPont has over 30 years of experience in fuel cell system development. We leverage high-level expertise in polymer chemistry, materials engineering and catalysis to ensure you get the performance you need.

The need for clean, sustainable, and affordable fuel cell power has never been greater. DuPont is accelerating advancements in fuel cell technology with innovative materials and engineering solutions to power today's leading-edge transportation, as well as portable and stationary applications.

What other alternative energy businesses is DuPont involved in?

In addition to Fuel Cells, DuPont’s broad-based alternative energy portfolio includes:

  • Photovoltaic Technologies: DuPont supplies eight of the nine key materials used in a solar panel. These products include conductive pastes and high-performance films that help the panel achieve higher power output and long life.