Practical experiments, demonstrations and worksheets to help 11–16 year olds explore the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel for transport

In this set of activities, students learn about chemical ideas relating to energy and the use of hydrogen fuel cells. Designed for 11–16 year olds, the resources explore a key alternative to fossil fuels in the familiar context of transport, and include practical experiments, demonstrations and worksheets with questions. Stimulate and engage your students as they develop and apply their understanding of:

  • What happens when hydrogen and oxygen react to make water
  • How hydrogen fuel cells work
  • The process for splitting water to produce hydrogen and oxygen

Each activity includes instructions for students, as well as editable worksheets and resources available for download.

1. Fuelling the fuel cell

Summary

Students use a molecular modelling kit to make molecules of hydrogen and oxygen, reforming them to model a molecule of water. They then write a balanced equation for the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to make water, describing what happens and explaining how to get the hydrogen and oxygen back again.

Download the resources

‘Fuelling the fuel cell’ worksheet

PDF | Editable Word document

2. The hydrogen–oxygen rocket

Summary

Students watch a demonstration in which ‘rockets’ are made by filling plastic bottles with a mixture of hydrogen and air. They then answer a series of questions to check their understanding of the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen and how the energy is used, before comparing the demonstration with what would happen in a hydrogen-powered car engine.

For the demonstration procedure, including kit list and safety instructions, see thehydrogen powered rocket experiment (part of the Nuffield practical collection).

Download the resources

‘Hydrogen–oxygen rocket’ worksheet

PDF | Editable Word document

3. How much energy comes from making water?

Summary

Students watch the teacher conduct an experiment involving the electrolysis of water and a subsequent demonstration of the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, before answering a series of questions. They check and apply their understanding of the reaction they have observed and consider how the system used in hydrogen-powered cars would need to be different from the experimental setup.

Use the procedure for exploding bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen from our Nuffield practicals collection (includes full kit list and safety instructions).

Download the resources

‘How much energy comes from making water?’ worksheet

PDF | Editable Word document

Plan a lesson around this activity

This activity can be used as part of a complete lesson plan for 16–18 year olds, investigating the use of hydrogen fuel cells and other technologies in cars.

4. Splitting water: making hydrogen and oxygen

Summary

This resource includes two activities, each of which is designed to illustrate the electrolysis of water. The teacher may choose to use one or both of the activities, depending on time and resources.

Activity 1: teacher demonstration

Students watch a teacher demonstration in which a ‘Hoffmann voltameter’ or ‘Hoffmann apparatus’ is used to split water and measure the amounts of hydrogen and oxygen produced. Students write down their observations, then answer questions to check their understanding of the reaction and practise writing the relevant equations.

Activity 2: class experiment

In the second activity, students conduct their own practical experiment involving the electrolysis of water. They record their observations, answer questions to check their understanding and practise writing the relevant chemical and/or word equations.

Download the resources

‘Splitting water’ worksheet (for demonstration)

PDF | Editable Word document

‘Splitting water’ worksheet (for class experiment)

PDF | Editable Word document

5. Hydrogen fuel cells

Summary

Students read about how fuel cells work, controlling the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. They then work through six questions to check their understanding and consider the practical and environmental implications of using hydrogen fuel cells to power cars.

Download the resources

‘Hydrogen fuel cells’ worksheet

PDF | Editable Word document

Downloads