Making model fuel cell cars:2004/5

Making the gas storage equipment:


Use only fresh distilled or de-ionised water when electrolysing-every time .

The black connectors you see in the gas equipment are obtained from any Big W store as they are fine watering equipment connectors. Drill appropriate sized small holes positioned in syringes, allowing for direction of tubing for hydrogen and oxygen sides, once reversible fuel cell is mounted in position. Glue black connectors into syringes with epoxy resin. You do not have to glue down the fuel cell just use Blu Tac removable and reusable adhesive(~AUD$1.65).Alligator clips can be bought from Tandy , Dick Smiths Electronics or JayCar(~AUD$1.10 per set). Some soldering is required to prepare a number of wire sets with alligator clips for charging if required, and usage with electric motor and other equipment like solar panels. As you can see most if not all products can be built, but the time involved is considerable. As the products are now much cheaper it is worth ordering the complete unit.

Operational tips for model hydrogen fuel cell car:

1.When ready the reversible fuel cell will be connected from bottom outlets to hydrogen and oxygen gas storage cylinders respectively, with silicone rubber tubing. The top outlets on both sides of the reversible fuel cell will have approximately five(5)cm of silicone rubber tubing connected and left open.2.Fill tops of gas storage equipment with distilled or de-ionised water only.3.Fill gas storage equipment so that a small amount of distilled water drops out of the top outlets on both sides of the reversible fuel cell. Sometimes a little help by blowing air via ones mouth into the tops of the gas storage cylinders will assist water to flow into reversible fuel  cell and out the top outlet silicone rubber tubes.4.Once this has happened clamp off the top outlets at the ends of the silicone rubber tubes. This now ensures that water has filled the reversible fuel cell on both sides.5.Wait for approximately 10-15 minutes to allow the fuel cell membrane to hydrate properly for proper operation.6.Apply power to reversible fuel cell(red-red /black-black )-never connect the wrong way. Ensure voltage is ~1.8V and never sustained over 2.0V and or 2 amp across the reversible fuel cell when connected. Test with a multimeter  across the terminals of the reversible fuel cell.Two(2) AA batteries will have an open circuit voltage of ~3V and when connected ~2.1/2V;this is too high and will destroy reversible fuel cell. A resistor is required to drop the voltage. I have used a 1Ω resistor with 2AA batteries(Duracell[1.8V] or rechargeable[1.75V] ) and when connected obtained ~1.8V.Same applies for solar panels so most 1.5V panels need to be connected in series and tested(Dick Smith,Jaycar Electronics or Tandy)Do not expect rapid activity with solar panels at ~1.8V as amperage is lower.More solar panels and thus expense would ensure faster electrolysis.7.Hydrogen and oxygen gas will be produced by the reversible fuel cell due to electrolysis in accordance with the power supplied.The gas storage equipment will receive the gases respectively via the silicone rubber tubing.The gases entering will cause a partial pressure above the respective water reservoirs greater than atmospheric pressure and the water friction  against the gas cylinder walls,allowing water to rise against atmospheric pressure and the accumulating weight of water under gravity per cm. Hydrogen will displace twice as much water than oxygen.8.Stop power to reversible fuel cell at the ~10ml mark.Energy supplied would be up to 3-4 wattmin,the fuel cell is ~50% efficient so the output energy is ~1.5-2 wattmin.The reversible fuel cell outputs ~440mw so a minute charge at 3-4 watt max would return 1.5-2wattmin due to the efficiency factor,at 440mw, giving around 4-5 minutes of output("It keeps going").9.The gases will stay put for a reasonable time until the circuit is made with an electrical load(motor etcetera).Once connected to a motor by example the hydrogen and oxygen will be consumed and the water levels will drop.The motor may slow and stop prematurely with a little water still visble signalling that gas is still available. Quickly open and close the top oulet silicone hose clamps to ensure the water levels drop a little,then clamp off the top outlets again.This will usually start the process again until all gas is consumed.There may still be a small amount left at the end.That is not a problem as the reversible fuel cell unit will improve with further usage.10.When finished disconnect silicone hose from gas equipment ,remove gas equipment and empty water and reposition gas equipment for next usage.Store system in a plastic covered area away from dust etcetera.  

The assembly is fairly simple however finding parts is not. Further to this the gear box drive system needs some effort as the output from the fuel cell is not 1.5V-3V which is what small motors are designed for. The most responsive small motor is required for such a small voltage(~.85V @ ~400ma)to produce the most torque to drive the model car. Mechanical advantage is needed to gear that small power enough to propel the model car forward overcoming limiting friction. You can use WD-40 lubricant (prefer original without water added) RP7,or fine oil. Reasonably sophisticated electronics could be incorporated to "step up" the voltage from the R.fuel cell output  to the electric motor (But remember there could be up to 40% energy lost in conversion,unless using a proven DC-DC converter !)[A small capacitor is plausible] .The gas equipment is equipment to displace distilled or de-ionised water by the same proportion as gas produced(Archimedes), so relative comparison and observation can be made. There are a number of ways apart from the syringe-method used here. I have found that these 60ml syringes were easier for me to obtain so I used them. The permanent adhesive being epoxy resin A/B was used because of its obvious strength, quick setting time( 5 minutes) and cost which was only AUD$2, giving a fairly large quantity by comparison to others.As well I discovered the "Pascoe" brand superglue being a six pack of 3g tubes,to be excellent for AUD$3.00 from Big W stores.The superglue binds balsa wood fiercely along with other combinations.I noticed the strength of the superglue bond climb dramatically when both surfaces were very clean and were roughed up with a small file

Senior high school subjects like engineering science/industrial arts, physics, and chemistry would facilitate hydrogen and fuel cell science/engineering education. New alternative energy subjects in NSW Australia for year 2006 beginning, would be suited to hydrogen and fuel cell science/engineering education.Hydrogen and fuel cell science/engineering education complements solar / renewable energy education in two(2) powerful ways. Firstly, solar energy has been taught now for some years at schools and it fairly well understood.An obvious hybrid application with fuel cells and batteries "Steps" towards the goal of harnessing solar energy so that it can be used at night. Storing solar energy for night usage has been an obvious objective for centuries.The fuel cell reforming natural gas supplies the power for night usage whilst the solar panels collect what's free during the day.The next major point is to use the system the "smart" way by switching between energy storage (batteries), fuel cell and solar electric panels.This is done by a smart controller built for such and appropriate computer software.Students can learn this ultimate objective of "smart switching".

One year later and .....................


Educational model decentralised hybrid power supply system(DHPSS)

Summary of hydrogen and fuel cell science/technology education:

1. The purpose of this exercise is to set a fundamental direction in education to be consistent with what is required to be taught to students, as regarding their futures and the realities now before us, as relating to global warming, energy security and the predicted peak in global oil production in year 2007.All environmental education must now factor in the above examples. The progression of hydrogen and fuel cell science/engineering education in year 2006 and again in year 2007,prepares students technologically, for the mass release of the micro-fuel cell in year 2007 to power all portable electronic devices. It as well prepares students for the anticipated exponential growth from year 2007 onward. Real technology and a new energy carrier demonstrates to students positive action has been taken to preserve their futures.

2. Transportation pollution is a major concern, so a hydrogen fuel cell model car was selected for demonstration purposes. Students must be made aware of the scale of what is coming and the many ways fuel cell technology can be used in society. How students are taught innovatively is important ,as once excitement and enthusiasm expands, new teaching techniques can immediately be applied, as there is a greater chance of breaking past embedded behaviors and thus sustaining new innovative teaching techniques. "Strike while the iron is hot" and there is a greater chance innovative ways will "Stick" after the "iron cools down". 

Apart from transportation projects , solar electric panels, batteries and a fuel cell in a hybrid system "Steps" towards the ultimate goal of utilising stored solar energy for night usage( Decentralised power). The system uses a PEM fuel cell running on reformed natural gas and batteries, but this would be replaced when solar electric panels become cheap enough and /or the new "direct" solar cells which produce hydrogen directly from water . Hydrogen storage under low pressure would replace batteries with the "Hydrogen battery". By year 2015 houses will have solar hydrogen fuel cell systems outright and solar energy would be stored in hydrogen as the energy carrier; The long term goal would have been reached.Intelligent usage of all energy allows for the system to be maximised for efficiency and longevity.

3.Most feedback from teachers has been "Its happening now". Precisely true as it is happening now as stated. Real industrial design and product manufacturing is happening around the world whilst the students are being taught.

Many thanks to Solar Hydrogen Research Pty Ltd

[ Design / engineering  by Stephen Zorbas 05/05]

Further reading



 Fuel Cells 2000 NFCRC: Home Page ,  Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Investor   The Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Letter,   Fuel Cell Today - Opening doors to fuel cells commercialisation ,  , Ballard Power Systems - Home , Cell offers fuel cells and related products , Nuvera Fuel Cells :: Home , Collecting the History of Fuel Cells: A Smithsonian Research ...  , Plug Power ,