SCIENCE OF INNOVATION: Fuel Cell Efficiency - An Engineering 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, & Science on Society & the Natural World


Introduction Notes:

Science of innovation

Fuel Cell Efficiency

An Engineering 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

(page 1)

       

        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, & Science on Society & 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, students will design a fuel cell of their own to do the work of heating a container of water. The class might define the constraints, or parameters, for how much water, how much of a change in temperature must take place, perhaps within what time frame, etc. under which the inquiry will be performed. Students might also mimic a biofuel cell and explore how the chemical energy stored in food can be converted to heat energy.

(page 2)

         Lead a discussion that helps students brainstorm to form a list of the needs that each scientist was addressing in his own research. Responses might include Dr. Farrow’s need for a monitoring device, the need for the monitoring device to be microscopic, or the need for a way to place the probe on the cell. Dr. Iqbal needed a material to conduct electrons in a biofuel cell and a way to place the carbon nanotubes precisely, uniformly, and consistently onto a tiny silicon wafer. After they have created this list, have students describe how the characteristics of the carbon nanotube addressed each one of the researchers’ needs. Have students make recommendations for the parameters of the constraints they list.

 

Facilitate Inquiry with Students

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

Introduce this video by giving groups of students a very simple circuit kit: a light bulb, a D-cell battery, and two pieces of 22-gauge insulated wire with the ends stripped. Have students explore how they can successfully connect the circuit to light up the bulb. Spark their thinking with the following prompts:

         A battery is made of….

         The battery lights up the bulb because….

         The wire’s role in the circuit is….

         The light bulb’s role in the circuit is….

         Problems with making the circuit work included....

         Energy supplied by a battery is different from energy supplied by an electrical outlet in that….

         Some benefits of using a battery instead of electricity from an electrical outlet are….

 

Show the video SOI: Fuel Cell Efficiency and encourage students to jot down notes while they watch. Continue the discussion of fuel cell design and function 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….

         Dr. Farrow used the carbon nanotubes in his probes to….

         Dr. Iqbal used the carbon nanotubes in his biofuel cells to….

         Fuel cells are like batteries because….

         The catalyst’s job in the fuel cell is to….

         The energy source in a biofuel cell is….

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

 

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 a biofuel cell converts chemical energy to energy that does work. Ask groups to choose one question and phrase it in such a way as to be researchable and/or testable. The following are some examples:

         What are some sources of chemical energy and how can we observe and compare energy conversion?

(page 3)

 

         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 fuel source such as potato chips or cheese puffs. In addition, some students might use foil or other nonflammable materials to direct the heat to the food and to insulate their apparatus.

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)

Each group might come together to agree on one question about designing a fuel cell to do the work of heating water, or each group might explore different aspects. Exploring different aspects allows students to collaborate and share their information after they conduct their investigations. Students should brainstorm to form a plan they would have to follow in order to answer their questions. 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 fuel cell we are designing will….

         In our fuel cell, energy is stored in the….

         The energy in the fuel is transferred to the water by….

         We will make our fuel cell the most efficient by….

         To conduct our investigation safely, we will….

 

Following their separate investigations, encourage groups to share their results with each other as scientists and innovators often do. Some groups may have developed effective insulators, while others may have used energy-packed fuel sources. Direct students to collaborate on creating the most efficient water-heating mechanism. As a class, test the mechanism that results from the collaboration.

 

(page 4)

 

 

Focused Approach(Copy Master pages 10-11)

The following exemplifies how students might model a biofuel cell to heat water, using a food such as potato chips or cheese puffs as the fuel source.

1.      After students examine the materials you have available to design their fuel cell model, ask questions such as the following to help them think through their design:

         How much fuel might it take to heat the container of water?

         How will you ensure the energy source burns efficiently?

         How will you determine the overall efficiency of your design?

         How will you transfer the energy from the fuel source to the container of water?

         How can you prevent energy loss in your system, which reduces efficiency?

2.      Students might construct a fuel cell using potato chips as their fuel source, adhering to constraints such as how much water must be heated, how much of a change in temperature must take place, and perhaps the time frame in which the change must occur. Some students might opt for testing varying amounts of different fuels while others might design a system to get the greatest temperature increase using the least amount of fuel. Explain to students that creating a good setup might require adjustments in their initial designs before they conduct their tests. Give students free rein in designing their apparatus but insist they get your approval of their designs. Stress appropriate safety precautions. To help students envision their investigations, use prompts such as the following:

         The materials we will use are….

         We will convert chemical energy to thermal energy by….

         We will choose _____ as our fuel source because….

         We will record and organize our data using….

         To conduct our investigation safely, we will….

3.      As students work, they should take detailed notes on the steps that they take to conduct their investigation, including diagrams representing how they set up their energy source and container. Ensure that students understand the importance of making accurate measurements by using these, or similar, prompts:

         We will measure the amount of the fuel source to the nearest _____.

         We will measure temperature to the nearest _____ degree.

         We will measure how long it takes to heat the water to the nearest _____ because….

4.      Discuss with students how the components of their designs do or do not model the components of the biofuel cell described in the video. Prompt their thinking with the following:

         Our fuel source is the same as/different from that in the video in that….

         Our catalyst is the same as/different from that in the video in that….

         The work done by our fuel cell is the same as/different from the biofuel cell in the video in that….

5.      Students might continue their investigations by sharing their results with one another as scientists and innovators often do. Have groups collaborate to create the most efficient water-heating mechanism. As a class, test the mechanism that results from the collaboration to see if combining the best of each design makes for an overall improved design. Make sure students relate the process of design iteration and collaboration to how innovators design and build new things in the real world.

(page 5)

 

6.      Student might also continue their investigations by exploring the online SEPUP fuel cell simulation, at http://www.sepuplhs.org/high/hydrogen/fuelcell_sim5.html. Have students compare the components highlighted in this simulation (catalyst, fuel, work done, energy transfer mechanism, and so on) to the components of both the biofuel cell described in the video SOI: Fuel Cell Efficiency and the students’ fuel cell designs.

 

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….

 

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 an insulated design is more efficient than an uninsulated design because the design with insulation could heat the water much faster than the design without insulation.

 

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….

 

(page 6)


 

Students might make comparisons like the following:

My findings are similar to those of my classmates, because they found that keeping the container of water closer to the fuel source caused the water to heat up faster, because less energy was lost from the system.

 

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.

 

 

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.

Evaluate:  Have small groups of students create diagrams of both a simple battery circuit powering a light bulb and the fuel cell described in the video. The diagrams should point out analogous structures in both systems. Then, groups should exchange their diagrams and evaluate one another’s understandings. Finally, after students have considered and evaluated one another’s work, have the class discuss and reach consensus on each system’s structure and how they are related.

 

Using the 5E Approach?

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

Explain: Use the portion of the video from 3:14 to 4:24 to support instruction about enzymes and catalysts.

Elaborate: Experts in the video discuss two devices in which the carbon nanotube was very useful: the cellular probe and the biofuel cell. Some uses for each of these tools are described. To support a lesson on organic compounds, have students brainstorm other potential uses for one or both of the tools. Guide them to focus on the characteristics and function of each tool to think of their potential uses.

 

(page 7)

 

Connect to … Technology

Invent:Encourage students to imagine some useful applications for the biofuel technology in the future when it is fully developed. Emphasize that part of the criteria for use is that the technology would be harmless to its carrier. What animals might be useful producers of biofuel cell energy for what applications? Examples might include service dog applications that could make power generation portable for people with special needs or biofuel cells attached to milk cows so that they could power their own milking. To inspire students, show them the Nature article, “Cyborg Snails Power Up” at http://www.nature.com/news/cyborg-snails-power-up-1.10210.

 

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 fuel cell we are designing will….

         In our fuel cell, energy is stored in the….

         The energy in the fuel is transferred to the water by….

         We will make our fuel cell the most efficient by….

         To conduct our 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 design a fuel cell that converts energy stored in food to energy that does work. Write your report in your science notebook.

 

Ask a Beginning Question

How can we design a fuel cell that most efficiently converts the energy stored in a potato chip to energy that heats water in a container?

 

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 are….

         We will convert chemical energy to thermal energy by….

         We will choose _____ as our fuel source because….

         We will record and organize our data using….

         To conduct our investigation safely, we will….

         We will measure temperature to the nearest _____ degree.

         We will measure how long it takes to heat the water in _______ because….

 

Record Data and Observations

Organize your observations and data in a table. The table below is an example of one way to record the variables you change and keep the same while testing what can affect the efficiency of a fuel doing work.

 

Biofuel and Water Temperature Change

Type of fuel

Amount (g) of fuel

 

Type of insulation

Temperature change (oC) of the water

Time (s) to change temperature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(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)


o    

 

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.

 

(page12)

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