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published by the WGBH Educational Foundation
This 14-minute video explores the technology of the hydrogen fuel cell for use in automobiles. It delves into the promise of the technology, hurdles (such as building filling stations), and challenges of finding green ways to produce hydrogen. You'll also find an animated tutorial on how fuel cells work, a clickable schematic view of a fuel cell installed in a car, and an a question/answer set featuring an expert in energy conversion devices.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Editor's Note: Manufacturers have avoided hydrogen as a source of fuel for cars, but this video prompts viewers to take a second look at its potential. Hydrogen presents many challenges: storage (as a gas, it takes up more tank space than gasoline) and production/delivery (how do we produce it without environmental impact and deliver it to fueling stations?)  But its promise lies in its zero-emission capability and potential use as backup power for cities and buildings.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Work and Energy
= Mechanical Power
Electricity & Magnetism
- Capacitance
= Energy Storage
- Electromotive Force and Current
= Cells and Batteries
= Electrolysis
- High School
- Middle School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
- Audio/Visual
= Image/Image Set
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Intended Users:
General Public
Access Rights:
Free access
© 2005 WGBH Educational Foundation
PEM fuel cell, animation, anode, cathode, energy efficiency, fuel cell, fuel cell animation, fuel cell video, green energy, hydrogen cell
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created March 30, 2014 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 19, 2020 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 31, 2013

Next Generation Science Standards

Earth and Human Activity (HS-ESS3)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems. (HS-ESS3-4)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • All positions of objects and the directions of forces and motions must be described in an arbitrarily chosen reference frame and arbitrarily chosen units of size. In order to share information with other people, these choices must also be shared. (6-8)
Natural Resources (ESS3.A)
  • All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors. (9-12)
Human Impacts on Earth Systems (ESS3.C)
  • The sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources. (9-12)
  • Scientists and engineers can make major contributions by developing technologies that produce less pollution and waste and that preclude ecosystem degradation. (9-12)
Global Climate Change (ESS3.D)
  • Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth's mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities. (6-8)
  • Though the magnitudes of human impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are human abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Energy and Matter (2-12)
  • Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system. (9-12)
Structure and Function (K-12)
  • Investigating or designing new systems or structures requires a detailed examination of the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and connections of components to reveal its function and/or solve a problem. (9-12)
Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World (K-12)
  • New technologies can have deep impacts on society and the environment, including some that were not anticipated. Analysis of costs and benefits is a critical aspect of decisions about technology. (9-12)
Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology (K-12)
  • Science and engineering complement each other in the cycle known as research and development (R&D). (9-12)
Science Addresses Questions About the Natural and Material World (2-12)
  • Science knowledge indicates what can happen in natural systems—not what should happen. The latter involves ethics, values, and human decisions about the use of knowledge. (9-12)
  • Many decisions are not made using science alone, but rely on social and cultural contexts to resolve issues. (9-12)
Science is a Human Endeavor (3-12)
  • Science and engineering are influenced by society and society is influenced by science and engineering. (9-12)
  • Science is a result of human endeavors, imagination, and creativity. (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (K-12)
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (9-12)
    • Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students' own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future. (9-12)
    • Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations. (9-12)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to developing, using and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems. (6-8)
    • Develop and use a model to describe phenomena. (6-8)
Engaging in Argument from Evidence (2-12)
  • Engaging in argument from evidence in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about natural and designed worlds. Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science. (9-12)
    • Evaluate competing design solutions to a real-world problem based on scientific ideas and principles, empirical evidence, and logical arguments regarding relevant factors (e.g. economic, societal, environmental, ethical considerations). (9-12)
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Record Link
AIP Format
(WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2005), WWW Document, (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/education/tech/fuel-cells.html).
NOVA: Fuel Cells (WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2005), <https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/education/tech/fuel-cells.html>.
APA Format
NOVA: Fuel Cells. (2013, March 31). Retrieved June 19, 2024, from WGBH Educational Foundation: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/education/tech/fuel-cells.html
Chicago Format
WGBH Educational Foundation. NOVA: Fuel Cells. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, March 31, 2013. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/education/tech/fuel-cells.html (accessed 19 June 2024).
MLA Format
NOVA: Fuel Cells. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2005. 31 Mar. 2013. 19 June 2024 <https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/education/tech/fuel-cells.html>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {NOVA: Fuel Cells}, Publisher = {WGBH Educational Foundation}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {19 June 2024}, Month = {March 31, 2013}, Year = {2005} }
Refer Export Format

%T NOVA: Fuel Cells %D March 31, 2013 %I WGBH Educational Foundation %C Boston %U https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/education/tech/fuel-cells.html %O application/flash

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D March 31, 2013 %T NOVA: Fuel Cells %I WGBH Educational Foundation %V 2024 %N 19 June 2024 %8 March 31, 2013 %9 application/flash %U https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/education/tech/fuel-cells.html

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

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NOVA: Fuel Cells:

Supplements Fuel Cells: Green Power

Free digital 26-page booklet developed to serve as a short textbook for a unit on fuel cell technology.

relation by Caroline Hall

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