SCIENCE OF INNOVATION: Fuel Cell Efficiency - A Science Perspective (Grades 6-12) Print

Objective:

Framework for K-12 Science Education - PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter, PS1.B: Chemical Reactions, PS3.C: Relationship Between Energy and Forces, PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life, PS4.C: Information Technologies and Instrumentation, ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem, ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions, ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology, ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World


Introduction Notes:

Science of innovation

Fuel Cell Efficiency

A Science Perspective (Grades 6–12)

 

Lesson plans produced by the National Science Teachers Association.

Video produced by NBC Learn in collaboration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office
and the National Science Foundation.

 

Background and Planning

 

About the Video

This video demonstrates how collaboration between two scientists working in the field of nanotechnology has contributed to fuel cell innovation, by combining research efforts in cellular-level probes and biofuel cells to produce a fuel cell that is 100 times more efficient than existing fuel cells.  At the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Professor Reginald Farrow placed carbon nanotubes on a cell surface using an electric field technique known as electrophoresis, which enabled him to monitor electrical functions at the cellular level. Professor Zafar Iqbal,  also at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, combined carbon nanotubes with enzymes to drive the flow of glucose to power a biofuel cell. This collaboration has resulted in multiple patents for these two researchers and others, and continues the innovation process in nanotechnology and fuel cell efficiency.

 

0:00     0:14     Series opening

0:15     0:34     Examples of objects requiring energy

0:35     1:04     Introduces Farrow and Iqbal and their fuel cell efficiency research

1:05     1:35     Describes nanotechnology

1:36     2:06     Describes Farrow’s research to create a cellular probe

2:07     2:58     Describes carbon nanotubes and the researchers use them

2:59     3:13     Highlights the pair’s patents and how collaboration solved a problem in
Iqbal’s research

3:14     3:39     Discusses Iqbal’s research to speed up reactions that drive a biofuel cell

3:40     4:05     Animation of how Iqbal’s biofuel cells work

4:06     4:24     Describes continuing innovations in biofuel cell research

4:25     4:51     The future of biofuel cells in the body

4:52     5:08     Summary

5:09     5:20     Closing credits

 

Language Support

To aid those with limited English proficiency or others who need help focusing on the video, make the transcript of the video available. Click the Transcript tab on the side of the video window, then copy and paste into a document for student reference.

 

Framework for K-12 Science Education

      PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

      PS1.B: Chemical Reactions

      PS3.C: Relationship Between Energy and Forces

(page 1)

 

      PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life

      PS4.C: Information Technologies and Instrumentation

      ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem

      ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

      ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology

      ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

 

Emphasize Innovation

 

The Innovation Process

Collaboration

An important part of the innovation process is collaboration among those in related but different fields. As shown in the video, Dr. Farrow realized he needed input from other experts to move his research forward. In turn, Dr. Iqbal was able to use the breakthrough he and Farrow created to further his own research. Together, they filed for multiple patents to protect their intellectual property.

 

Take Action with Students

Encourage students to demonstrate collaborative techniques. Give students note cards on which they write three areas of interest; pair students according to areas they have in common. Instruct them to share information about the topic with each other for a few minutes. After their “pair and share” action, have each student cite one fact or anecdote about the topic he or she did not already know and how it enhanced his or her knowledge of the topic.

 

Innovation and STEM

The innovation highlighted in Science of Innovation (SOI): Fuel Cell Efficiency incorporates many aspects of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. For example, required science knowledge includes an understanding of how a nanoscopic tube made of carbon has the ability to conduct electron flow, converting chemical energy to electrical energy to do work. Math concepts include the differences in electrical potential driving the flow of electrons, or the magnitude of the electromagnetic forces required to move the carbon nanotubes to their desired locations. Dr. Iqbal collaborated with Dr. Farrow to integrate Dr. Farrow’s carbon nanotube placement technology to improve his own research in biofuel cells. The engineering process involved the collaboration between two scientists using existing technology to improve upon the function of another existing innovation – in this case, using carbon nanotube technology to improve upon the function of the biofuel cell, as well as to improve upon the design of electromagnetic fields and devices used to make the miniature biofuel cell.

 

Take Action with Students

         Using the Design Investigations section of Facilitate Inquiry as a guide, encourage students to investigate how energy can be transformed from one form to another to do a job. Some students might also be interested in relating energy conversion to the concepts of thermodynamics and the work-mechanical energy theorem, which states that mechanical energy is the sum of potential energy and kinetic energy of the system.

(page 2)

 

         Using their understanding of the biofuel cell technology discussed in the video, suggest that students work together in small groups to come up with other ways to convert the potential energy stored in glucose into kinetic energy that does work. Examples might include not only microscopic fuel cells that work in the human body, but also larger fuel cells that power lights, automobiles, calculators, and so on. Prompt students to think about what might be used as the biofuel source, and how the fuel source is maintained. Have the groups present their ideas to the class as a whole, and allow other students to constructively critique these ideas and suggest improvements, to reinforce that improvements are an essential part of innovation and the protection of one’s intellectual property rights.  If necessary, remind students that patents allow for protection of inventions, but also provide for disclosure of information that others can use to improve a product, process, service, or technology.

 

 

Facilitate Inquiry

Encourage inquiry using a strategy modeled on the research-based science writing heuristic. Student work will vary in complexity and depth depending on grade level, prior knowledge, and creativity. Use the prompts liberally to encourage thought and discussion. Student Copy Masters begin on page 9.

 

Explore Understanding

Pose the analogy to students that the human body is a machine that requires fuel. Elicit from students examples of how the body is fueled. You might show them food labels or remind them of the basic formulas for photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Spark their thinking with the following prompts:

         The energy that people use to live and grow originates….

         The form of “food” that the body actually uses is _____ and it is made available by….

         You can tell how much fuel is in foods by….

         Foods could be considered analogous to batteries in that….

         A machine such as ____ might be fueled by….

 

Show the video SOI: Fuel Cell Efficiency and encourage students to jot down notes while they watch. Continue the discussion of fueling a “machine” and introduce the concept of energy conversion using prompts such as the following:

         When I watched the video, I thought about….

         Some of the things that might be powered by a fuel cell include….

         The experts in the video used carbon nanotubes to….

         Farrow and Iqbal began working together when….

         Fuel cells are like batteries in that….

         A catalyst causes….

         A biofuel cell supplies energy by….

         Farrow’s and Iqbal’s fuel cell was more efficient than others because….

         Chemical energy is converted to electrical energy in a fuel cell by….

         A biofuel cell is different from other fuel cells in that….

 

(page 3)

 

Ask Beginning Questions

Stimulate small-group discussion with the prompt: This video makes me think about these questions…. Then have student groups list questions they have about how chemical energy is converted to other kinds of energy, such as kinetic energy or thermal energy. Ask groups to choose one question and phrase it in such a way as to be researchable and/or testable. The following are some possible examples.

         What are some sources of chemical energy and how can energy conversion be observed and compared?

         What sources of chemical energy contain more energy than others, and how can we tell?

         What mechanisms most efficiently convert chemical energy into energy that does work?

         How does the amount of fuel in a chemical energy source affect how much work it can do?

         How can we make the chemical energy conversion process most efficient?

 

Design Investigations

Choose one of the following options based on your students’ knowledge, creativity, and ability level and your available materials. Actual materials needed will vary greatly based on these factors as well.

Possible Materials

Allow time for students to examine and manipulate the materials you have available. Doing so often aids students in refining their questions, or prompts new ones that should be recorded for future investigation. In this inquiry, students might use empty food cans or soda cans of different sizes, metal buckets or large metal pans, metal tongs, metal clamps, thermometers, needles, corks, balance, cover goggles, and flameproof gloves. They will also need a variety of foods such as marshmallows, cheese puffs, potato chips, and crackers. Include both baked and fried potato chips or cheese puffs, and both regular and sugar-free marshmallows.

Note: Avoid nuts or other foods to which many students have allergies, and be aware that fried foods such as potato chips easily burn and if they are used, students should monitor the combustion closely.

 

Safety Considerations: To augment your own safety procedures, see NSTA’s Safety Portal at http://www.nsta.org/portals/safety.aspx.

 

Open Choice Approach(Copy Master page 9)

Groups might come together to agree on one question about chemical energy for which they will explore the answer, or each group might explore something different. Students might explore any part of the set-up implied by the materials above: the chemical energy source, the conduction of the energy, or the work that the energy does. For example, they might explore how the chemical energy stored in food can be converted to thermal energy to heat a beaker of water. They should brainstorm to form a plan they would have to follow in order to answer the question. Work with students to develop safe procedures that control variables and enable them to make accurate measurements. Encourage students with prompts such as the following:

         The variable we will test is….

         The variables we will control are….

         The steps we will follow are….

         To conduct our investigation safely, we will….

 

(page 4)

 

Focused Approach(Copy Master pages 10-11)

The following exemplifies how students might investigate how the amount of chemical energy in a food source affects the amount of work it can do.

1.      After students examine the materials you have available to explore the work capacity (in food, that would be indicated by the calorie content) of different chemical energy sources, ask questions such as the following to spark their thinking:

         What role does glucose play in a biofuel cell?

         Where does the body get glucose to power a biofuel cell?

         How could you ensure that the body had enough glucose to power a biofuel cell?

         How could you measure the amount of work done by the chemical energy in a fuel cell?

2.      Students might choose to explore how the form or amount of chemical energy in food dictates the amount of work that can be done as the result of this energy. Students might compare the amount of chemical energy converted to thermal energy of a variety of foods using a simple calorimeter, which could consist of an empty soda can filled with water and suspended over a small metal bucket by sliding its pop-top ring over a wood or metal rod and placing the rod across the top of the bucket. They might compare the conversion of the chemical energy to thermal energy by burning foods and measuring the rise in temperature of water in the can. Stress appropriate safety precautions as students develop their experimental procedures. To help students envision their investigations, use prompts such as the following:

         The materials we will use are….

         The variable we will test is….

         The responding variable will be….

         The variables we will control, or keep the same, are….

         We will choose _____ food items, because….

         We will vary the amount of chemical energy in the food source by….

         We will convert chemical energy to thermal energy by….

         We will measure the amount of thermal energy produced by….

         We will record and organize our data using….

         To conduct our investigation safely, we will….

3.      Students might continue their investigations by exploring the work that can be done by the energy stored in other components of food, such as fat, fiber, etc. For example, they might choose other food items that have similar sugar contents, but different amounts of fiber.

 

Media Research Option

Groups might have questions that are best explored using print media and online resources. Students should brainstorm to form a list of key words and phrases they could use in Internet search engines that might result in resources that will help them answer the question. Review how to safely browse the Web, how to evaluate information on the Internet for accuracy, and how to correctly cite the information found. Suggest students make note of any interesting tangents they find in their research effort for future inquiry. Encourage students with prompts such as the following:

         Words and phrases associated with our question are….

         The reliability of our sources was established by….

         The science and math concepts that underpin a possible solution are….

         Our research might feed into an engineering design solution such as….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….          (page 5)

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

As students carry out their investigations, ensure that they record their observations. As needed, suggest ways they might organize their data using tables or graphs. Students should analyze their data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence their data shows. Encourage students with this prompt: As evidenced by… we claim… because….

 

An example claim might be:

As evidenced byour temperature measurements, we claim that amount of sugars is related to the amount of energy available to do work because foods with a higher sugar content raised the temperature of the water more than those with a lesser sugar content.

 

Compare Findings

Encourage students to compare their ideas with others – such as classmates who investigated the same or a similar question; material they found on the Internet; or an expert they chose to interview. Remind students to credit their original sources in their comparisons. Elicit comparisons from students with prompts such as:

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in the video in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Students might make comparisons like the following:

My findings are similar to those of my classmates, because they found that foods with a greater caloric value provide more energy to do work in changing the temperature of an amount of water than foods with a lower caloric value when burned.

 

Reflect on Learning

Students should reflect on their understanding, thinking about how their ideas have changed or what they know now that they didn’t before. Encourage reflection, using prompts such as the following:

         My ideas about this topic have changed because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         I wish I had been able to spend more time on….

         Another investigation I would like to try is….

 

Inquiry Assessment

See the rubric included in the student Copy Masters on page 12.

 

 

 

      (page 6)

 

 


 

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan

 

Integrate Video in Instruction

Compare/Contrast:  After students have watched the entire video, replay the segment from about 2:57 to 3:57, which discusses Drs. Farrow and Iqbal’s biofuel cell. Iqbal likens a fuel cell to a battery in that it converts chemical energy to power. Explain, if necessary, a simple circuit connecting a battery to a light bulb or some other device it might power. Have students compare this battery circuit to a biofuel cell driving a pacemaker. Focus students on central energy concepts within each mechanism, like kinetic energy, potential energy, or energy conservation. Also have them identify components common to both: the chemical energy source, the energy conversion mechanism, the work the device does, and so on. Encourage students to create diagrams to help them compare and contrast the circuits.

 

Visualize Concepts:  Play the animation near the end of the video (3:40-4:05) with the sound muted. Elicit from students the parts of the circuit that enable the flow of electricity.

 

Using the 5E Approach?

If you use a 5E approach to lesson plans, consider incorporating video in these Es:

Explore: Use the Design Investigations section of the Facilitate Inquiry to support your lessons on types of energy and energy conversions.

 

Elaborate: Use the video to encourage students to think about and discuss ways in which chemical energy is converted in some way to accomplish a task, such as gasoline burning in a car to make it run, glucose being burned in the body to facilitate exercise, the burning of wood in a campfire to roast a marshmallow, the heat of the burning marshmallow melting chocolate to make a s’more. Challenge students to trace several chemical energy transformations that are linked together.

 

Connect to … Social Studies

Evaluating Alternatives:  Show students the New York Times article, “Hydrogen Fuels Auto-rickshaws and Dreams of Cleaner Air” found at the link below. Discuss the article with students and then instruct them to work in small groups to find a few more potential applications that fuel cells might have, such as replacing the need for fossil fuels. Use the applications they gather to spark a discussion about the benefits for developing countries. Some of your students might also be interested in the film Who Killed the Electric Car?, a documentary by Chris Paine that ties this lesson into the broader context of green energy, and presents many of the socioeconomic and political factors at play in getting technological innovations into the marketplace.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/02/business/energy-environment/hydrogen-fuels-autorickshaws-and-dreams-of-cleaner-air.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&  

 

(page 7)

 

 

Prompt Innovation with Video

After students watch the video, have them research patents associated with fuel cells and carbon nanotubes. They can do so with an Internet search on Google.com/patents using search terms such as the following. If time is limited, point students toward the following patents.

 

Primary Search Terms           

Carbon nanotube (CNT)

Single-wall nanotube (SWNT)

Multi-wall nanotube (MWNT)

Electrolytic fluid

Immersion

Electrical Probe/Nanoprobes

Orientation

Electrophoretic deposition

Vapor deposition

Catalysis of oxidation

Additional Search Terms

Electrolyte

Voltage

Energy

Glucose/Carbohydrates

Organic fuel

Calories/Kilocalories

Nanoelectrode

Alignment

Positioning

 

Patent Examples

7,964143:          nanotube device and method of fabrication

2005/0118494: implantable biofuel cell system based on nanostructures

2005/0095466: immobilized enzymes in biocathode

2007/0287034: microfluidic biofuel cell

2008/0160384: integrated biofuel cell with aligned nanotube electrodes and method of use

 

Suggest students read abstracts of patents that attract their attention. Then hold a discussion about how various innovators are improving on the process. Use prompts such as the following:

         This patent is for _____, which is related to the invention shown in the video by….

         This patent describes _____, which differs from the invention shown in the video in that….

         I think doing/making _____ would be an innovation because ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(page 8)


 

Copy Master: Open Choice Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of Innovation: Fuel Cell Efficiency

Use this guide to investigate a question about energy and energy conversion. Write your report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

The video makes me think about these questions….

 

Design Investigations

Choose one question. How can you answer it? Brainstorm with your teammates. Write a procedure that controls variables and makes accurate measurements. Add safety precautions as needed. Use the prompts below to help focus your thinking.

         The materials we will use are….

         The variable we will test is….

         The variables we will control are….

         The steps we will follow are….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

 

Record Data and Observations

Record your observations. Organize your data in tables or graphs as appropriate.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence your data shows. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your results with classmates who investigated the same or a similar question. Or do research on the Internet, or talk to an expert. How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in the video in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about your results. How do they fit with what you already knew? How do they change what you thought you knew about the topic?

         My ideas about this topic have changed because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         I wish I had been able to spend more time on….

         Another investigation I would like to try is….

(page 9)


 

COPY MASTER: Focused Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of Innovation: Fuel Cell Efficiency

Use this guide to investigate a question about how the amount of chemical energy in a substance might affect how much work can be done with the stored energy. Write your report in your science notebook.

 

Ask a Beginning Question

How does the amount of chemical energy in a food source affect the amount of work the energy can do?

 

Design Investigations

Brainstorm with your teammates how to answer the question. Decide on one idea and write a procedure that will allow you to gather valid data. Add safety precautions as needed. Use these prompts to help you design your investigation.

         The materials we will use to test our question include….

         We will measure the amount of work done by….

         The variable we will test is….

         We will change the variable by….

         The responding variable will be….

         The variables we will control, or keep the same, are….

         To conduct our investigation safely, we will….

 

Record Data and Observations

Organize your observations and data in a table. The table below is an example of one way to record how the amount of sugar in a product affects the amount of heat energy released.

 

Sugar Content and Water Temperature Change

 

Amount of Sugar (grams)

 

Temperature Change (°C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(page 10)

 


 

Graph the Data

Plot your data on a graph like the one below. Remember that the independent variable, or the variable you tested, is plotted on the x-axis and the dependent, or responding, variable is plotted on the y-axis. Label the axes of your graph and give your graph a title.

 

 

 

 

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence shown by your data. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your results with classmates who investigated the same or a similar question. Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert. How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in the video in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out. How does it fit with what you already knew? How does it change what you thought you knew?

         My ideas about this topic have changed because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         I wish I had been able to spend more time on….

         Another investigation I would like to try is….

 

(page 11)


 

Copy Master: Assessment Rubric for Inquiry Investigations

 

 

Criteria

1 point

2 points

3 points

Initial question

Question had a yes/no answer, was off topic, or otherwise was not researchable or testable.

Question was researchable or testable but too broad or not answerable by the chosen investigation.

Question clearly stated, researchable or testable, and showed direct relationship to investigation.

Investigation design

The design of the investigation did not support a response to the initial question.

While the design supported the initial question, the procedure used to collect data  (e.g. number of trials, or control of variables) was not sufficient.

Variables were clearly identified and controlled as needed with steps and trials that resulted in data that could be used to answer the question.

Variables

Either the dependent or independent variable was not identified.

While the dependent and independent variables were identified, no controls were present.

Variables identified and controlled in a way that results in data that can be analyzed and compared.

Safety procedures

Basic laboratory safety procedures were followed, but practices specific to the activity were not identified.

Some, but not all, of the safety equipment was used and only some safe practices needed for this investigation were followed.

Appropriate safety equipment used and safe practices adhered to.

Observations and data

Observations were not made or recorded, and data are unreasonable in nature, not recorded, or do not reflect what actually took place during the investigation.

Observations were made, but were not very detailed, or data appear invalid or were not recorded appropriately.

Detailed observations were made and properly recorded and data are plausible and recorded appropriately.

Claim

No claim was made or the claim had no relationship to the evidence used to support it.

Claim was marginally related to evidence from investigation.

Claim was backed by investigative or research evidence.

Findings comparison

Comparison of findings was limited to a description of the initial question.

Comparison of findings was not supported by the data collected.

Comparison of findings included both methodology and data collected by at least one other entity.

Reflection

Student reflection was limited to a description of the procedure used.

Student reflections were not related to the initial question.

Student reflections described at least one impact on thinking.

 

(page 12)

 

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