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A Multidisciplinary Course On Fuel Cells: Their Applied Science And Engineering

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Energy Projects and Laboratory Ideas

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.70.1 - 9.70.7



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Paper Authors

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Rajeswari Sundararajan

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Bradley Rogers

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1402

A Multidisciplinary course on Fuel Cells: Their Science and Engineering Govindasamy Tamizhmani, Brad Rogers, and Raji Sundararajan Arizona State University East, Mesa, AZ 85212


The Arizona State University Photovoltaic Testing Laboratory (ASU-PTL) is one of only three accredited labs in the world for the design qualification of photovoltaic modules per IEC and other standards. The ASU-PTL is currently positioning itself to carry out independent performance and design evaluation of fuel cell systems as well. In addition to this, curricula are being developed that provide students with both theoretical and practical knowledge of fuel cell systems and their operations. This paper presents the details about the first introductory, multidisciplinary course that was developed and taught at ASU for the first time in the spring of 2003. The course is at the advanced undergraduate and graduate level. The goal of the course is to provide graduates with up to date knowledge and understanding of fuel cells and their supporting systems.

In this course, students are exposed to concepts from electrochemistry, material science, chemical engineering, polymer science, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, heat transfer, manufacturing and electrical and electronics engineering as they apply to fuel cell systems. This is a true multidisciplinary course. The interdisciplinary nature of the course necessitates a team-teaching approach, and faculty with backgrounds in electrochemistry, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering deliver portions of the course. The course includes a theoretical portion, and a comprehensive practical portion in which the students build a membrane electrode assembly (MEA) and assemble, test and characterize this assembly as a single stage proton exchange membrane fuel cell. The lab training also consists of making bipolar plates needed for the interconnection of the cells for normal operations.

The course was very well received and more work to refine the course is ongoing. Feedback from the students indicates a tremendous interest generated by the course, and several students intend to concentrate their graduate work in the fuel cell area.


Today’s cutting edge technologies are tomorrow’s commercial technologies. Fuel cells have the potential to solve many of the dilemmas created by the energy demands of our society. With clean, quiet and efficient outputs, the potential importance of fuel cell technology cannot be overemphasized. However, the technology is yet to mature, there are many technical problems that need to be addressed. This has created a need for qualified scientists, engineers and technologists. An important goal of this course is to train engineering technology graduates, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, who can contribute in an immediate and meaningful way to the advancement of fuel cell technology. To meet this goal, the course includes specific sections on theory, practice, oral presentations, report writing, and group projects. Consequently, coupled with the relevance of the technology, this course essentially meets all aspects of ABET criterion 1, outcomes a through k.

Fuel Cells – A Truly Interdisciplinary Subject

Teaching a fuel cell course is challenging because the field is truly interdisciplinary. For example, the load curve shown in Figure 1 illustrates that operating limitations are influenced by different phenomena depending on the operating point. Consequently, improvements to the operating envelope requires a team of experts from several different fields. To address this challenge, at ASU East it was decided to use a team-teaching approach with specialists in three different fields teaching portions of the course: Electrochemistry, Electronics Engineering Technology and Mechanical Engineering Technology.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Sundararajan, R., & Rogers, B. (2004, June), A Multidisciplinary Course On Fuel Cells: Their Applied Science And Engineering Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12970

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