By embracing science, our children may one day find the answers to energy independence.
Going green is inevitable, and no one questions the urgent need for alternative fuel sources for two reasons. The first is that we can no longer destroy our planet without consequence, and the second is that we do not have an unlimited supply of fossil fuels for use as sources of energy. This is why fuel cells are becoming important to a sustainable future.
Looking toward clean fuel sources, scientists are exploring methods of enhancing solar, wind, and hydro-electric power. Clean fuel cell energy holds great promise in resolving our current energy crisis, and providing us with an overwhelmingly cleaner environment. As inhabitants of this planet, we must become educated and take action to change our habits. We no longer can afford to ignore the fact that how we live and what we do affects global warming.
It is important for kids to participate in developing new technology that will save our planet. One way is to participate in clean fuel cell energy science fair projects. This gives kids the opportunity to learn about alternative energy resources and stimulate new ideas that will contribute to community’s awareness. As we are exposed to the possibilities of what each of us can do, we create positive changes in our lives that will reverse global warming.
One of the most exciting prospects for energy technology involves the use of hydrogen fuel cells, for heating, cooling and transportation. Let’s take a look at how this important alternative energy source can be applied to fuel cell energy science fair projects.
Science experiments and science fair project ideas related to fuel cell energy can be accomplished in the early elementary grades. At this age, children can learn about the composition of water and how water can be divided into its two components. In order for fuel cells to operate, hydrogen must first be extracted from water and supplied to the cell. This process is known as electrolysis.
Here is an easy and simple electrolysis science experiment for elementary school students:
- Use two pencils – sharpened at both ends, a glass of water, and a 9-volt battery.
- Place one end of the pencils in a glass of water, the other ends of the pencils should be sticking out of the glass.
- Use a piece of cardboard or paper with holes in them to secure the pencils.
- Attach electrical wires to each pole of the battery and then attach the other end of the wires to each pencil tip.
- Hydrogen bubbles will then collect around one of the pencil tips.
- Experiment further by adding various foods or juices to the water to speed up the process of electrolysis (e.g. salt).
Middle and high school students will have a greater understanding of fuel cell energy by learning how to do project research. They will be able to develop a more complex experiment, since they will have a deeper understanding of the subject matter. For example, they can utilize reversible fuel cells in science fair science kits. This will allow the process of electrolysis to be observed, when the fuel cell is used to power small objects such as model cars or clocks.
In order to perform experiments and ultimately design renewable energy projects with fuel cells, high school students must have a thorough understanding of how a fuel cell works:
- Hydrogen atoms go into the anode (negative) side of a fuel cell battery, passing through to a catalyst where their electrons are separated out.
- The atoms, minus the electrons, continue to pass through the electrolyte while the electrons move onto an electrical circuit to provide energy.
- As the electrons pass out of the circuit into a second catalyst, they are joined by the atoms and form complete hydrogen atoms again.
- Oxygen, which has passed through the cathode (positive) side, meets up with the hydrogen to form water, which is expelled, along with heat. So long as there is a continual supply of hydrogen, the fuel cell battery continues to provide energy supply.
Here are some questions parents or teachers may pose when setting the students up for the science fair projects.
- Which type of catalyst is most efficient?
- Which type of electrolyte is most effective?
- Can the water and heat exhaust be used to provide heat for other things?
- How many fuel cells must be stacked to provide enough energy to power a small, medium or larger model car?
Part of any science project must include a thorough report of current scientific knowledge and research. In the area of fuel cell energy, the most prevalent work has been in the area of transportation, such as hybrid and prototype automobiles. These vehicles make use of modified fuel cell energy.
The projects of students across the globe may help solve the concerns and challenges faced with these technologies. We must solve for how we will provide hydrogen on a mass scale. Similarly we want to solve for the storage of hydrogen within the car, especially with manufacturers being mindful of weight and safety.
If these problems can be resolved, we will be on our way to becoming energy independent, which is certainly a huge goal for a country using up oil faster than it can be pumped and refined. The benefits in pollution reduction will be immeasurable – hydrogen fuel cells generate zero emissions.
Fuel cell technology is certainly one of the most important sciences of the future if we are to survive and thrive on this planet. Early investigation on the part of students may well provide the excitement and motivation to become a part of the solution to our energy problems.
By experimenting, kids are made aware of the environmental issues we face at an early age. This prepares them to make a difference and contribute to the planets health as they grow older.