Fuel cell schematic diagram

Fuel cell – an electrochemical device similar to a battery, but differing from the latter in that it is designed for continuous replenishment of the reactants consumed; i.e. it produces electricity from an external fuel supply as opposed to the limited internal energy storage capacity of a battery. Typical reactants used in a fuel cell are hydrogen on the anode side and oxygen on the cathode side (a hydrogen cell).

Fuel cells – a hydrogen battery—just another battery! From the car’s standpoint, you’re driving on electricity, whether you’re taking it out of a battery or a fuel cell stack. You need similar power electronics; motors; it’s very quiet; there are no shift points. A fuel-cell vehicle is fact an EV because, like a battery vehicle, it stores chemical energy that is later released in the form of electricity. It’s just that fuel cells can be refilled—with hydrogen—whereas batteries must be recharged.

Toyota’s fuel cell sedan features performance similar to a gasoline engine vehicle, with a cruising range of approximately 700 km and a refueling time of roughly three minutes. When driven, it emits only the water vapor produced by the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.

FuelCell history – The concept of a fuel cell had effectively been demonstrated in the early nineteenth century.


That’s engineering

  • chemical reaction – a process involving one, two or more substances (called reactants), characterized by a chemical change and yielding one or more product(s) which are different from the reactants.
  • Third law of thermodynamics – any closed system will tend to minimize its free energy. Without any outside influence, any reaction mixture, too, will try to do the same.
  • catalyst – substance that causes or speeds a chemical reaction without itself being affected

Engineering ideas

  • chemical reaction, hydrogen, electric motor, chemical energy, electricity, electrochemical, reactant, catalyst, fuel, storage, electrolysis

Do It
Challenges for you to work on…

  • Alka-Seltzer Rocket LEGO Cars – Build a LEGO car that’s powered with a chemical reaction. This simple LEGO science activity uses just LEGO bricks, a film canister, and Alka Seltzer tablets. The link includes building directions, as well as discussion questions to ask, and data to gather and analyze.
  • Fuel call cars – four experiments with a hydrogen fuel cell to learn how to fill the unit, decompose water through electrolysis, measure the amount of gas produced and test the gases generated.

Learn more…