Powering Fuel Cells with Crude Oil

Paweł Piotr Włodarczyk, Barbara Włodarczyk


Over the last few decades the demand of energy has increased significantly. Providing more and more energy is an essential task of today's energetic industry. Energy production is based on coal, crude oil, natural gas and nuclear energy. Within the recent few years also alternative energy sources have been developing. One of these sources is fuel cells, mainly due to their high efficiency. Fuel cells perform direct conversion of chemical fuel into electrical energy, without combustion. Generally fuel cells are powered by hydrogen. However, problems with the storage of hydrogen are the reason for the search of new fuels for fuel cells. The paper presents the possibility of using crude oil as fuel for fuel cells. As crude oil does not have the feature of electrical conductivity, a detergent – nonionic surfactant – was used for dissolving oil in an electrolyte.

The work shows possible electrooxidation of crude oil emulsion prepared on the basis of a nonionic surfactant on a platinum electrode in an aqueous solution of H2SO4. The resulting current density reached the level of 10 mA/cm2, at a potential of about 1,30 V, which means the possibility of using crude oil as fuel for fuel cells has been proved.

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