03 Chemical Engineering Research

2023 Topic:  Fuel Cell   

This event is limited to the first 18 entries


Teams of 2 or 3 students will demonstrate their ability to design and build a working Fuel cell.

A fuel cell is a device that generates electricity by a chemical or biochemical reaction. There are several types of fuel cells such as alkaline, acid, molten carbonate, microbial and others. Students are encouraged to check literature sources to find information on the design and assembly of a working fuel cell.

first fuel cell 1839
fueling a fuel cell car


Part 1: Conduct Research and Build a Fuel Cell

  • Research your options, then design and build your Fuel cell taking into account the event details including Event Day description and Safety Requirements.

  • Test your Fuel cell to show that it can power a motor, windmill etc.

  • Create a video of the Fuel cell in a working trial, and post to You Tube.

  • Write a report and Poster/Power Point presentation based on your results and conclusions, using the guidance below, and show the device is designed upon the principles of chemical engineering and chemistry submitting by the deadline.

  • Present your Fuel cell to the judges and be prepared to answer questions.

Fuel Cell Requirements/Restrictions

  • You are not allowed to use a Fuel Cell kit

  • The total cost of the Fuel Cell shall not exceed $200 regardless of funding source

Part 2: Report Student Findings

The written paper and poster/power point must adhere to the ACS Style Guide.

Citations should follow ACS Style Guidelines (Oregon State University Quick Guide: ACS Citation Style)

1. Research Paper

Must demonstrate the team’s understanding of the following:

  • A clear understanding of the mechanism of the electrochemical processes in the operation of the Fuel Cell

  • A justification for the choice of electrodes, electrolytes, separator, and catalyst employed

  • A discussion of the typical efficiency and limitations of Fuel Cells

  • A discussion of possible design changes needed to improve the performance of the Fuel cell

The written report cannot exceed ***10 pages*** - 12 point font, double spaced plus Appendices (see below). Include a cover page that indicates: the title of the paper, the authors, the school name, and Team A or team B (if applicable).


All research papers must be built upon information acquired from a minimum of 3 PRIMARY SOURCES. Although Internet sources may also be utilized in addition to the primary sources judges will be looking at how students select and use information gathered from primary sources.

Examples of primary sources include articles found in peer-reviewed professional journals such as: Nature, Science and Journal of Chemical Education.

Peer-reviewed professional journals are available at post-secondary academic libraries. Peer-reviewed journals that are accessed online are acceptable. Magazines such as Discover, Science News, Popular Science, and Scientific American, although informative are not peer-reviewed professional journals. You are required to submit photocopies of the first three pages of each primary source used in your paper. Abstracts in lieu of articles are not acceptable. 

Students are encouraged to use the following resources to learn about the engineering design process and to consider the best way to document the process that they can share with the judges.  (link to resources pending)

All sources of information must be identified clearly (written sources as well as a list of people who provided assistance).

Required Appendices:

  • Appendix 1: Documentation of the Engineering Process the team followed by using diagrams, charts, etc. (Format determined by the team-photocopied Lab Journal is acceptable) 

  • Appendix 2: Safety Plan elaborating on the team’s effort for safe chemical handling and disposal.

  • Appendix 3: Photocopies of the first 3 pages of the primary source articles used in your research.

2. VIDEO: A 3- TO 5-minute video of a working trial conducted should be made to YouTube to share with the judges before Event Day. The video should clearly state where in the design process the team has progressed. The URL of the video should be sent along with the team’s research paper. Note: the video does not have to demonstrate the final working model but should demonstrate a functioning model at the most basic level. 

Part 3: Submit Required Materials

  • The written paper and poster/PowerPoint must adhere to the ACS Style Guide.

  • Four (4) copies of the complete report and YouTube URL must be received by the NJCO Event Coordinator by the deadline indicated in the Competition Guidelines. The reports must be clearly labeled with the school name, Team A or B (if applicable), student names, and Coach’s names

  • In addition to submitting 4 paper copies of each research paper, teams are also required to submit their papers to turnitin.com for review. All submissions must be in the form of a single file in Microsoft Word format.



1. Present either a freestanding poster (maximum 1 m x 1m) or a PowerPoint presentation that focuses on the engineering design process and describes all major design changes in the team’s prototypes (3-5 minutes). Include a short (20- to 30- second) video demonstrating their working Fuel Cell.

2. Be prepared to participate in a short question-and-answer session with the judges.

3. Student teams will then present their Fuel Cells.

  • A team may be disqualified if they are not ready to start at the scheduled time of their presentation or they are not operating safely.

Safety Note: All laboratory work should follow appropriate safety instructions and be supervised by an instructor or coach. This includes following the team’s submitted safety plan, and all pertinent event site safety rules and regulations.

Neither the transportation from the bus to the event site and back again, nor the set-up, use, and dismantling of the Fuel Cell shall result in any noxious emissions or liquid or solid spills. See Event Safety Guidelines



None at this time.


IMPORTANT: Learn about the requirements concerning Primary Sources, formatting, and citations for your research paper: Research Guidelines and requirements

The Chem Engineering Research Paper must be received by the NJCO EVENT Coordinator by the deadline indicated in: Requirement Overview.



  • Written report and YouTube video of working design-20%

  • Rationale for engineering design choices -20%

  • Oral presentation/Evidence of engineering process-20%

  • Working Fuel Cell-35%

  • Safety of Operation-5