Introducing Science Concepts with the iH2GO
Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies
At its heart, the iH2GO is just a really fun piece of technology. From the solar panel charging to the hydrogen generation and refueling to the iOS/Android™ device controls, the whole car is designed to provide a great remote control (RC) experience. Also, the electrochemical processes that keep the iH2GO ticking along provide a demonstration of some key scientific principles. The transparent casing and targeted LED lighting showcase these processes and provide an engaging, understandable introduction to electricity, hydrogen generation, and solar energy.
The iH2GO hydrogen car.
The fuel cell
The iH2GO derives its power from a hydrogen fuel cell, giving students the chance to develop an understanding of hydrogen as a powerful “energy carrier.” Then there’s the process of turning hydrogen into electrical energy by reintroducing oxygen. At the cathode side of the fuel cell, there is the combination of oxygen, heat, and hydrogen to create steam, while at the anode, the electrons from the hydrogen atom work their way through the iH2GO circuit, providing power to the back wheels. The fuel cell offers the opportunity to discuss electrolytes and the principles of polarization—there’s so much science packed into a single proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell!
The iH2GO refueling station lets students see water electrolysis as it happens. It is an opportunity to learn about the molecular structure of water and the bonds that hold hydrogen and oxygen together. Using distilled water, which is a poor conductor of electricity, opens up the opportunity to discuss the platinum catalyst inside the PEM electrolyzer. The RC car itself then shows what can be done once the hydrogen and oxygen are separated, providing an instant, practical example of the power and utility of even the most basic chemical processes.
Using the photovoltaic panel to charge the iH2GO refueling station provides a demonstration of an entirely renewable system. Students can witness firsthand the conversion of different kinds of energy: solar into electricity, electricity into hydrogen, and then hydrogen back into electricity. All the while, the principles of energy conservation are demonstrated in a dynamic, exciting way.
The iH2GO houses a supercapacitor, which means the system is a mini-version of the full-size hydrocars being built by the largest automotive companies. The battery stores electrical energy to be used when the car accelerates or to pair with the controlling device. Again, the supercapacitor is a wonderful tool for learning, introducing students to the “dielectric”—a polarized insulator that creates an internal electric field to store energy. Most important, when the refueling station is charged via the solar panel, the supercapacitor shows how, even with lithium batteries, the entire process can still be completely sustainable.
The iH2GO provides a wonderful opportunity to explore the building blocks of electrochemical science. All of these processes should be discussed in all science classrooms: electrolysis, energy conservation, electrical circuits, polarity, electrical fields, and solar power. The difference is that at the end of the day you have a fully charged, handheld device-controlled, hydrogen hybrid car. The iH2GO explores fascinating processes using cutting-edge renewable technology.