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How to Build a Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Generating pollution-free electricity, the hydrogen fuel cell is a promising renewable energy technology. Watch it in action with this simple home-science project.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Make electrodes Cut the wire into two 6-inch pieces. Wind each piece tightly around a nail to form coils that will serve as electrodes. Leave a 1-inch piece uncoiled at the end and remove your coils from the nail.
  • Step 2: Prepare the battery Cut the wire on the leads of the battery clip in half and cut away the insulation from the ends of the wires. Twist the stripped ends together with the uncoiled ends of your coiled electrodes.
  • Step 3: Fasten electrodes Tape both electrodes next to one another in the middle of the popsicle stick. Put the tape on the twisted leads where they meet the coil.
  • Step 4: Attach to glass Balance the Popsicle stick on the rim of the glass of water and tape the ends of the stick to the rim of the glass. Make sure only the coiled electrodes hang into the water, not the twisted leads.
  • Step 5: Connect volt meter Connect the red wire to the positive terminal of the volt meter and the black wire to the negative terminal. The meter should read zero.
  • TIP: A small amount of voltage, such as .01, may read on the meter.
  • Step 6: Operate fuel cell Touch the 9-volt battery to the battery clip for a second or two. This causes the water at the electrodes to split into hydrogen and oxygen -- known as electrolysis -- and bubbles will form.
  • Step 7: Remove battery Remove the battery. The platinum allows the hydrogen and oxygen to recombine to make water and produce electricity, which can be seen on the volt meter. You can even use it to power small electrical devices.
  • FACT: The only byproduct or exhaust from hydrogen fuel cells is water and water vapor.

You Will Need

  • A 12-inch length of pure platinum wire or platinum-coated nickel wire
  • Wire cutters
  • A nail
  • A 9-volt battery clip
  • Clear tape
  • A popsicle stick
  • A glass of water
  • A volt meter
  • A 9-volt battery

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