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Active Learning Of Chemical Engineering Principles Using A Solar Panel / Water Electrolyzer / Fuel Cell System

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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

Molecular and Multiscale Phenomena

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.141.1 - 9.141.18



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Paper Authors

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Vijay Ramani

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James Fenton

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Suzanne Fenton

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

Session 3413

Active Learning of Chemical Engineering Principles Using a Solar Panel / Water Electrolyzer / Fuel Cell System

Suzanne S. Fenton, Vijay Ramani, and James M. Fenton Department of Chemical Engineering University of Connecticut

Abstract Modules are described that provide experimental/analytical investigation of traditional chemical engineering concepts within the framework of a solar/hydrogen renewable energy cycle. Module lessons cover photovoltaics, thermodynamics, stoichiometry, characteristic current-voltage curves/efficiency, kinetics and transport. A self-contained solar panel / electrolyzer / gas storage containers / polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) device along with separately purchased (or borrowed) spotlight, power supply, multimeters, and decade resistors are used for all experiments. The experiments are of short duration (15-50 minutes), simple, and produce data that can be analyzed by/used to verify traditional chemical engineering relations (given a few supplemental electrochemical engineering equations). The equipment used in the modules is inexpensive, simple to operate, safe, portable and commercially available. Ideally, this will permit multiple “systems” to be purchased and used simultaneously by students, providing a truly hands-on small group experience.

Modules can be used at all levels of the undergraduate curriculum (freshman through senior) and can be used in multiple classes (Freshman Engineering, Intro to Chemical Engineering, Thermodynamics, Kinetics, Transport, Laboratory Practice, and Electives) to illustrate appropriate material. Figure 1 contains a concept map linking modules to concepts within the curricula that are addressed in this paper. Use of the modules can be preceded by classroom discussions of the hydrogen economy, its projected political, social, and environmental impacts (both locally and globally) and/or the challenges associated with converting to such an economy. The modules can also be modified for use at the pre-college level for a wide variety of projects and/or simple in-class or public demonstrations.

Motivation There are several motives behind this work. The primary motive is to provide instructors with “active learning” modules that can be easily imported into traditional lecture courses to enhance student retention of basic principles in multiple subject areas of chemical engineering. The exercises have been designed to be “instructor friendly”, i.e. they are simple and can be performed during a normal 50 minute lecture. The equipment used in these experiments is relatively inexpensive compared to pilot scale equipment of similar nature, thus multiple set-ups can be purchased for use in a single class. An excellent instruction manual is provided by the manufacturers of the solar panel / electrolyzer / fuel cell system and many of the experiments described here are adaptations of experiments described in the manual[1].

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Ramani, V., & Fenton, J., & Fenton, S. (2004, June), Active Learning Of Chemical Engineering Principles Using A Solar Panel / Water Electrolyzer / Fuel Cell System Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13392

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