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William Robert Grove William Robert Grove (1811 -1896), a Welsh lawyer turned scientist, won renown for his development of an improved wet-cell battery in 1838 In 1800, British scientists William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle had described the process of using electricity to decompose water into hydrogen and oxygen. But combining the gases to produce electricity and water was, according to Grove
Christian Schönbein Johann Poggendorff Christian Schönbein (1799 -1868) and Johann Poggendorff (1796 -1877) were among a number of scientists who debated the question of exactly how Grove's gas battery worked
Friedrich Wilhelm Ostwald Friedrich Wilhelm Ostwald (1853 -1932), a founder of the field of physical chemistry, provided much of the theoretical understanding of how fuel cells operate. In 1893, he experimentally determined the interconnected roles of the various components of the fuel cell: electrodes, electrolyte, oxidizing and reducing agents, anions, and cations
Ludwig Mond Chemist Ludwig Mond (1839 -1909) and assistant Carl Langer (d. 1935) described their experiments with a fuel cell using coal-derived "Mond-gas." They attained 6 amps per square foot (measuring the surface area of the electrode) at .73 volts. Mond and Langer's cell used electrodes of thin, perforated platinum At the same time, Charles R. Alder Wright (1844–1894) and C. Thompson developed a similar fuel cell. Their report on the experiments give an idea of the limitations of the time
William Jacques' carbon battery apparatus, 1896 William W. Jacques (1855 -1932), an electrical engineer and chemist, was undeterred by such figures however. In 1896, he "startled the scientific world and general public," according to one scientist of the day, "by his broad assertion that he had invented a process of making electricity directly from coal." Jacques constructed a "carbon battery" in which air was injected into an alkali electrolyte to react with a carbon electrode
Emil Baur Emil Baur (1873 -1944) of Switzerland (along with several students at Braunschweig and Zurich) conducted wide-ranging research into different types of fuel cells during the first half of the twentieth century. Baur's work included high temperature devices (using molten silver as an electrolyte) and a unit that used a solid electrolyte of clay and metal oxides In the 1940s, O. K. Davtyan of the Soviet Union added monazite sand to a mix of sodium carbonate, tungsten trioxide, and soda glass "in order to increase the conductivity and mechanical strength" of his electrolyte. Many of the designs during this period experienced unwanted chemical reactions, short life ratings, and disappointing power output. However, the work of Baur, Davtyan and others on high-temperature devices paved the way for both the molten carbonate and solid oxide fuel cell devices of today
Francis Thomas Bacon Francis Thomas Bacon (1904 -1992) began researching alkali electrolyte fuel cells in the late 1930s. In 1939, he built a cell that used nickel gauze electrodes and operated under pressure as high as 3000 psi In 1958 he demonstrated an alkali cell using a stack of 10-inch diameter electrodes for Britain's National Research Development Corporation