CONSTRUCTION OF A MICROSCALE FUEL CELL
©2004 by David A. Katz.
All rights reserved.
Permission for classroom use provided original copyright is included.
Fuel cells are being publicized as the energy source of tomorrow.
They can be made with
materials that are environmentally safe, they can last for long time periods, and they do not
pollute the environment.
One type of fuel cell uses hydrogen as a fuel.
With our current
technology, it is not practical to construct hydrogen filling stations, similar to gasoline stations,
nor to properly store hydrogen in an automobile or other fuel cell powered device.
practical way to obtain hydrogen is from water, which is cheap and plentiful.
The hydrogen is
produced from the electrolysis of water, and, since it is produced in small quantities, it does not
require any special storage containers.
Although energy is required to electrolyze water (a battery
is used in this experiment), solar energy can be used, or, in an automobile, a generator or
alternator, which works while the engine is running, can supply the necessary energy.
The main components of a fuel cell are an
, the positive post of the fuel cell, a
negative post, an
or solution, usually basic, which can be used to generate the gases to
power the fuel cell, and a
which may be part of the electrodes,
to split the gaseous
hydrogen into H
The reactions that occur in a fuel cell are:
At the anode side:
At the cathode side:
The net reaction that occurs is:
In a fuel cell with an alkaline material present, such as the one you will be constructing in this