Energy Applications

Today’s consumer demands effective energy management. Consumers rely on efficient and accessible energy to power automobiles, homes, appliances, and electronics. National trends regarding energy management include appliance and home energy star ratings and the development of alternative and renewable energy sources. Energy conservation states that energy cannot be gained or destroyed but instead transferred from one form to another.


Understanding how energy is transferred from one form to another allows engineers to design efficient applications utilizing energy. We know that many sources of energy won’t last forever and that many sources have negative consequences on the environment. In the past individuals were forced to harness power that humans or animals created from the energy stored in food. Power could also be harnessed from surrounding resources like wind, flowing water, heat from the sun, or from combustible materials like wood. 


This lesson is designed to provide students with an opportunity to investigate thermal energy and alternative energy applications. Students will explore and gain experiences relating to solar hydrogen systems and thermal energy transfer through materials.

K1 – Explain that hydrogen fuel cells transform chemical energy stored in hydrogen gas to electrical energy and heat, converting hydrogen and oxygen into water. 
K2 – Describe the use of reversible fuel cells as electrolyzers to store electrical energy for later use. 
K3 – Describe the use of solar cells to convert light energy into electricity. 
K4 – Name convection, conduction, and radiation as the processes for transferring thermal energy and describe each process. 

S1 – Test and apply the relationships among voltage, current, and resistance in series and parallel circuits that incorporate photovoltaic cells and hydrogen fuel cells. 
S2 – Design a system to convert solar power to mechanical power using photovoltaic and fuel cells. 
S3 – Design, construct, and test insulation materials for reducing thermal energy transfer. 
S4 – Calculate the rate at which energy is transferred by conduction and radiation through materials of various R-values.



Fuel Cells - website (NASA)

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells - website (

All About Hydrogen (and Fuel Cells) - website (Air Liquide) - explore the many pages of this website

Hydrogen - video (Air Liquide)

How Fuel Cells Work - YouTube video (NakedScientists)

How Fuel Cells Work - website/animation (Air Liquide)

Where Does the Hydrogen for Fuel Cells Come From? - website/animation (Air Liquide)

Fuel Cell Car - YouTube video/animation (Toyota)

User Guide for PLTW Heliocentris Fuel Cell - pdf (on Google Drive)

Solar Energy - website (NREL: National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

How Solar Cells Are Made - YouTube video (Bosch Solar)

Work on PV (Photovoltaic) Technologies at a National Laboratory - YouTube video (U.S. Department of Energy)

Clean Energy - website (Environmental Protection Agency)

Energy Star Program - website (Energy Star)

Climate Change - website (EPA)

Worksheet on Solar Cells, Energy Transfer, Etc - pdf (on Google Drive)


Energy Transfers and Efficiency - website (BBC)

Conduction, Convection and Radiation - website (BBC)


Insulation Handout/Worksheet - pdf (on Google Drive)

Insulation and R-Value - website (

More Insulation and R-Value - website (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

R-Value Recommendations for a Building - website (ORNL)

Window Insulation - website (Lang Exterior)

Window Insulation - website (Building Green)

Measuring Heat Transfer - website ( - read "Specific Heat Capacity" and "Relating the Quantity of Heat to the Temperature Change"

Heat Transfer Formulas - website (

Specific Heat - website (hyperphysics)

Specific Heat Values for Common Solids - website (Engineering Toolbox) and website (Wikipedia)

Heat Conduction Formula - website (hyperphysics)

Thermal Conductivity (including Table of Values) - website (Engineering Toolbox)



Misunderstanding Heat Transfer


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