Standard Article

History of low temperature fuel cells

Fundamentals and Survey of Systems

Fuel cell principles, systems and applications

  1. G. Sandstede1,
  2. E. J. Cairns2,
  3. V. S. Bagotsky3,
  4. K. Wiesener4

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470974001.f104011

Handbook of Fuel Cells

Handbook of Fuel Cells

How to Cite

Sandstede, G., Cairns, E. J., Bagotsky, V. S. and Wiesener, K. 2010. History of low temperature fuel cells. Handbook of Fuel Cells. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    Physikalischer Verein von 1824 and Sandstede-Technologie-Consulting, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

  2. 2

    University of California, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, USA

  3. 3

    Mountain View, CA, USA

  4. 4

    Kurt Schwabe Institut für Sensortechnik Meinsberg and Elektrochemische Energie, Dresden, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


From this chapter it will be seen that the history of the development of fuel cells runs through several phases. In a beforehand phase, the development of energy in its various forms and also of automobiles and especially electric vehicles has been described. Then it has been discussed that three scientific fields were beforehand of the fuel cell effect, namely the Chemical Technology of gases (discovery of hydrogen and oxygen), Catalysis, and electrochemistry (discovery of the battery by Alessandro Volta). The first phase started with the discovery of the fuel cell effect by Christian Friedrich Schoenbein in January 1839 and the invention of the fuel cell by William Robert Grove in 1842 and passed through the invention of porous electrodes and_stack formation to the introduction of a matrix for the uptake of the electrolyte in 1889. The second phase began with motivation by Wilhelm Ostwald. Many researchers dealt with high and low-temperature fuel cells and the development of hydrophobic electrodes. In the middle of the last century, the third phase began and the basis of our present systems was laid. The cell types of Bacon and Grubb lead to the application in space. The fourth phase started with the phosphoric acid fuel cell, and the uptake of the development of the proton exchange fuel cell and solid oxide fuel cell, also in Japan, which was followed by the technology development of fuel cells for transportation, for education, for stationary and for portable application.


  • acid electrolyte fuel cell;
  • alkaline fuel cell;
  • direct methanol fuel cell;
  • molten carbonate fuel cell;
  • phosphoric acid fuel cell;
  • proton exchange fuel cell;
  • polymer electrolyte membrane;
  • proton exchange membrane fuel cell;
  • solid oxide fuel cell;
  • absorption;
  • adsorption;
  • alcohol;
  • ammonia;
  • Apollo space flight;
  • bacon cell;
  • battery: history, primary, secondary;
  • boron hydride;
  • butane;
  • carbon dioxide;
  • carbon monoxide;
  • carbon monoxide poisoning;
  • carbonate: molten;
  • carbonate electrolyte;
  • Carnot process;
  • catalysis;
  • catalyst: noble, non-metallic, non-noble, platinum;
  • cell: electrochemical, galvanic, gaseous, gaseous voltaic, voltaic;
  • cesium fluoride;
  • chlorine/alkali electrolysis;
  • coal;
  • cogeneration;
  • decan;
  • diffusion electrode;
  • doebereiner's lighter;
  • double layer;
  • double layer electrode;
  • double porosity electrode;
  • double skeleton electrode;
  • DSK electrode;
  • electrical telegraph;
  • electric vehicle;
  • electro-boat;
  • electro-car;
  • electro-ship;
  • electrochemistry: history;
  • electrode: carbon, gaseous diffusion, metallic, parameter, platinum, porous;
  • electrolysis: high-temperature;
  • electrolyte: liquid, membrane, solid, solution;
  • electrolyzer;
  • electrotraction;
  • energy conversion;
  • energy: conservation, sources, history;
  • ethane;
  • ethanol;
  • ethylene glycol;
  • fluoride;
  • electrolyte;
  • fluorinated sulfonic acid;
  • fork-lift;
  • formaldehyde;
  • formiate fuel cell;
  • formic acid;
  • fuel cells: acid, alkaline, discovery, gaseous, gaseous voltaic, high-temperature, history, low-temperature, medium-temperature, military, mobile, portable, space, stationary;
  • fuel cell system;
  • Gemini space flight;
  • glycerol;
  • glycol;
  • grove cell;
  • grove symposium;
  • HCl electrolysis;
  • Hindenburg syndrome;
  • high-pressure cell;
  • high-pressure fuel cell;
  • hydrazine;
  • hydrocarbons: anodic oxidation, reforming;
  • hydrogen: balloon, discovery, electrode evolution, generation, history, hydrophobic electrode;
  • hydrophobicity;
  • hydroxide electrolyte;
  • ion exchange membrane;
  • ionic membrane;
  • ionic membrane fuel cell;
  • indium oxide;
  • iridium;
  • lead;
  • liquid;
  • hydrocarbon;
  • lithium;
  • lithium oxide;
  • membrane and electrode assembly;
  • membrane;
  • membrane potential;
  • metal hydride;
  • metal hydride battery;
  • methane;
  • methanol;
  • mobile fuel cells;
  • nafion;
  • natural gas;
  • nickel/cadmium battery;
  • osmium;
  • oxidation: anodic, cathodic;
  • oxygen: discovery, electrode, evolution, generation, history;
  • platinum;
  • platinum/ruthenium;
  • polystyrene sulfonic acid;
  • porous electrode;
  • potassium hydroxide;
  • potassium boron hydride;
  • pressure vessel;
  • propane;
  • propanol;
  • proton electrolyte fuel cell;
  • polytetrafluoroethylene;
  • rechargeable alkali manganese cells;
  • Raney catalyst;
  • rhodium;
  • Rosetta stone;
  • ruthenium;
  • saturated hydrocarbon;
  • selenium;
  • silicon carbide;
  • silver carbonate;
  • solid polymer electrolyte;
  • sorption;
  • sulfur;
  • sulfur dioxide;
  • trifluoromethane sulfonic acid;
  • tin;
  • voltaic battery;
  • voltaic combination;
  • voltaic series;
  • Volta's pile;
  • water power;
  • wind power;
  • zinc/air battery: history