Question Sheet: Boosting Fuel Cells


Before reading:

  1. Why might it be worthwhile to do a science fair project? See Buddies).
  2. If you were interested in doing a science project that involves energy, what

    topic would you consider investigating? For energy project ideas, see (California Energy Commission).

During reading:

  1. How does a hydrogen fuel cell generate electricity?
  2. Describe how a fuel cell is like a sandwich.
  3. Why was Megan interested in lowering the temperature at which fuel cells operate? What material did she find that lowered the temperature at which her fuel cell operated?
  4. What was Wade Miller investigating in his science project?
  5. What does PEM stand for? How does this type of fuel cell work?

After reading:

  1. Before Megan started her project, she did a lot of research. Why do you think that research in books and on the Internet is important for scientists? Where else might Megan have found information about her subject?
  2. Suppose that you’re interested in doing a science project that concerns fuel cells. Come up with two questions about fuel cells and how they work that you might want to investigate.
  3. Why do you think there are many different kinds of fuel cells? See

    (U.S. Department of Energy). What advantages and disadvantages do the different types have? See


    (U.S. Department of Energy).
  4. Compare Megan’s project to Wade’s project. Which one do you think is more interesting? Why?


Many people are afraid of hydrogen because it has a reputation for exploding. One of the most famous cases of such a blast was the explosion of a huge, hydrogen-filled passenger airship known as the Hindenburg. The disaster occurred on May 6, 1937, in Lakehurst, N.J. What happened on that day? See to What might have caused the disaster? See ( Why might hydrogen not be to blame? See (


  1. Suppose you were a judge at the International Science and Engineering Fair. Come up with two questions that you would have for Megan and Wade if you were judging their projects.
  2. This article goes together with another article about fuel cells and cars (see Read the other article and compare it to this one. Which article did you like better? Why? What additional information about fuel cells, if any, would you have liked the articles to include?


Lucy and her friend Ethel go car shopping. Lucy finds a car that she likes with a gas-fueled engine. The car sells for $19,875. It’ll cost her $120 each month to buy fuel and maintain the car. Ethel finds a hybrid car, which runs on gas and electricity, that costs $23,300. It’ll

cost Ethel $70 each month to run and maintain this car. If Lucy and Ethel keep their cars for 5 years, how much will it cost to buy each car and run it over the 5-year period? Who ends up paying less?