Whilst the fundamentals of fuel cells are taught in chemistry to reflect the electro-chemical nature of them, physics educators can refer to the PEMFC as a power-producing device that generates force in accordance with classical Newtonian physics.The car travelling can be a fuel cell vehicle (FCV) with a fuel cell engine instead of a current motorcar using a heat engine. The efficiency of the fuel cell engine running on hydrogen can be related to distance travelled based on the energy content of the hydrogen tank under pressure and temperature.Electromagnetism can look at the current density of a fuel cell’s membrane electrode assembly (MEA) and the internal resistance of such a system. The electromotive force (EMF) of a PEMFC can be demonstrated and highlighted by voltage variations, consistent with current variations in accordance with how the fuel cell stacks are assembled.                                       See below


Fuel cell stacks

Integrated systems to generate electricity from solar energy, a fuel cell and a battery can be designed to achieve a set target to satisfy housing and or industry. A smart controller would do the switching required giving the maximum efficiency for the system.

    3.3   Engineering Science/s:

A complete PEMFC system can be analysed to highlight each section of the PEMFC system.Material science classes can add the analysis of the fuel cell membrane electrode assembly (MEA) to their content .The material science of such materials involving the conducting proton membrane, the catalytic material itself (usually platinum powder), cathode and anode (carbon paper types) and the flow field plates makes for exciting class work.Technical drawing can involve the design of a flow field plate where strategic patterns are drawn effecting gas flow which in turn effects the efficiency of the fuel cell. Over time students can have by project the opportunity to design and build their own simple fuel cell system.

Classical engineering mechanics from motion to friction can highlight the PEMFC as a power source for motorbikes, cars, lifts and alike for mechanics calculations. Brakes and braking for cars and motorbikes should now factor in regenerative braking.Regenerative braking is now being used in fuel cell hybrid scooters and cars, by where under braking such normal friction energy is not wasted but generates electrical energy to a super capacitor and or a battery. The saved energy from braking is then returned to propel the vehicle forward.The efficiency of a PEMFC power system running on hydrogen is 2-3 times more efficient than petrol in a combustion engine. This must be made very clear to engineering students. The latest PEMFC from Japan (04) has a 70% efficiency rate and is able to operate at 20 deg. below zero.. A super efficient Toyota Prius hybrid petrol/electric car is ~30% efficient, whilst a standard car is around 15-19% efficient. I would anticipate that engineering students in Australian high schools would find this material very interesting.Applications of fuel cells in society include transporation, housing, industry, portable backup power, electronic devices powered by such fuel cells, and even the implantation into white goods, dispensing of the need for a power socket.

    3.4   Social Science/s:

Some topics of interest are below;

o        Applications in society

o        Environmental impact

o        Greenhouse gas emission reduction

o        Carbon Trading System

o        Global warming

o        Geo-politics

o        Kyoto Protocol

o        Energy security

o        Replacement of fossil fuels

o        The Hydrogen Economy

o        Economic impacts

Many written assignments can be facilitated by the above topics as relating to the impacts of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. Learning frameworks in Australia invariably design a set of key desired outcomes for secondary schools, and each school has flexibility in drawing from such a broad spectrum, in determining their individual curriculum where appropriate.

Some of the desired learning outcomes are listed below, 

o        Natural and Processed Material

o        Energy and Change

o        Science in Daily Life

o        Acting Responsibly

o        Science in Society

o        Investigating Scientifically

o        Technology Process

o        Systems

o        Enterprise and Technology in Society

o        Creating Sustainable Futures

o        Designing and Evaluating Technological Solutions

o        Understanding Systems

    4.0   Resources for teachers:

Text Box: Hydrogen is an energy carrier and not energy itself.





This short B&W educational  report was produced by:

HECRESA consulting August 2004.

HECRESA consulting also operates for the National Hydrogen Institute of Australia and Fuel Cell Institute of Australia. Reports for 2003 included The National Hydrogen Report-June-03, Fuel Cell Products Reference Manual-03, The Living Murray Proposal-03, Solar Thermal Technology Applications for Australia-03, Decentralised Power & Water Systems (Australia)-03, Smart House Project proposal-03, Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Technology Educational Display Centre proposal-03, The Hydrogen Economy / Fuel Cell Vehicles-03, The Hydrogen Commercial Plan-01+..: Year 2004: Suggested Energy Directions for Australia to year 2020-Mar04 , Urban Transport Pollution Reduction proposal-Apr04, Greenhouse Strategy Suggestions NSW May04, Fuel Cell Science Educational Pilot Program For Principals and Teachers-July04, Education in Australia; suggested teaching material on hydrogen and fuel cell technologies-Aug04.

These reports were distributed( sample only) to Minister Diane Beamer August-2003, Minster Craig Knowles-2004, Minister Frank Sartor-2004, ALP Leader Mark Latham-2001-2004, Premier Geoff Gallop WA-2004, The Cabinet of Victoria-2004, The Cabinet of Queensland-2004, Senator Bob Brown-04, and The Senate of Australia 03,04.

Stephen V. Zorbas(1995-2015)

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