What's a DIY Fuel Cell?
Fuel cells are becoming increasingly popular as a way to power transport and industrial systems with clean energy. Transforming hydrogen into electricity, fuel cells are often stacked together – in so-called 'fuel cell stacks' – and are nowadays used in everything from long-distance trucking to powering residential buildings. Some fuel cells have been called 'DIY' – meaning 'Do It Yourself'. What does a DIY fuel cell really mean? Below you'll find all the information you need to know.
1. A DIY Fuel Cell can mean 'Hacking' a conventional fuel cell to make it more efficient
The first meaning of 'DIY Fuel Cell' is a conventional fuel cell that is 'hacked', often by students trying to make it more efficient. This 'hacking' can take the form of replacing the ceramic membranes (which are often low-cost) used in fuel cells. The more reactive the fuel cell's membrane, the more efficient the fuel cell will be.
Sometimes people don't only replace a membrane but inject a liquid solution into it, increasing its reactivity. Some of the most advanced techniques surrounding 'hacking' a fuel cell can involve creating entirely new membranes prepared using new procedures such as radiation grafting or plasma polymerization.
Other techniques involve using more expensive metals as catalysts for the chemical reactions that take place in fuel cells. Generally, the more expensive the metal used, the more efficient and durable it will be in a fuel cell. Recent research has even pointed to platinum as an excellent metal which is highly durable in the acidic environment of a fuel cell.
2. A 'DIY Fuel Cell' can describe an educational kit in which students construct their own fuel cell-powered system.
But 'hacking' a fuel cell is not the only thing people mean when they discuss DIY fuel cells. Recently, a range of educational providers have begun to manufacture so-called STEM kits. These educational kits often include a miniature fuel cell, possibly connected to a small model car or lightbulb. The students learn how to construct the fuel cell system and understand its role in different applications. The DIY aspect relates to students taking ownership of creating an entire miniature transport or energy system themselves.
This DIY fuel cell equipment is often referred to as STEAM class equipment. Not only does the equipment teach students the fundamentals of engineering and science, but it also integrates critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving into science class curriculums. DIY fuel cell equipment therefore has the potential to revolutionize how students learn about renewable energy.