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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Salt Water Fuel Cell Car kit Science Fair Project

Ryan's birthday present evolved into an  AWESOME Science Fair Project using OWI-750 Salt Water Fuel Cell Car kit



NaCl H2O FUEL


Problem Statement

What kind of salt will make a salt water powered car run the longest?

If the kind of salt is changed will that change the length of time the fuel cell will run?

Independent Variable

The kind of salt used. 

Dependent Variable

Change in the length of time the fuel cell will run. 

Hypothesis

If Sea Salt is used the Salt Water Fuel Cell Car will run for the longest amount of time.

Materials

1.    Salt Water Fuel Cell Kit
2.    Magnesium sheet, air cathode, nonwoven fabric, refill kit
3.    Slotted screwdriver
4.    Stick
5.    5 kinds of salt
6.    Measuring cup
7.    Water pitcher with room temperature H2O
8.    Diagonal cutter
9.    Timer
10.  Measuring spoon
11.  Eyedropper
12.  Paper towels
13.  Computer


Procedure

1.  The first step is to gather all the items from the materials list.

2.  The second step is to build the salt water fuel cell car from the kit with the slotted                                                                        screwdriver and diagonal cutter.

3.  The third step is to pour ½ cup of water from the pitcher then add ¼ tsp. of whatever salt you are testing and stir with a stick.

4.  Use the eyedropper to gather the salt water and place 5 drops on the non-woven fabric which is on top of the air cathode.  Then place the magnesium sheet on top and lock the fuel cell with the plastic top.

5.  In the fifth step place the fuel cell into the car and hold the car in the air. Start the timer as soon as the wheels begin to turn. Stop the timer when the wheels completely stop.

6.  Complete a Length of Time the Fuel Cell Ran test table for 5 trials.

7.  Repeat steps 3 through 6 for all 5 types of salt.

8.  Enter your data in the computer to make a spreadsheet for making graphs.

9.  All tests where done in the same room and air temperature.  Use the refill kit for new supplies for each type of salt.




Table Salt







1

2

3

4

5

Time

566

1212

449

655

496







Softener Salt







1

2

3

4

5

Time

872

1424

189

0

0







Epsom Salt







1

2

3

4

5

Time

32

0

0

0

0







Ice Melting Salt







1

2

3

4

5

Time

0

0

0

0

0







Sea Salt







1

2

3

4

5

Time

0

0

0

0

0
Results






The date was entered in the computer. Then line graphs were made to show the trend in each of the 5 tests for the 5 kinds of salt.  In looking at the line graphs it shows a trend of the second test being the longest in the two salts that worked. Then the times returned to more average times.   It also shows that 3 of the salts that were tried didn’t produce the necessary reaction to make the fuel cell work.

Data Analysis

 

The average length of time the fuel cell ran for each test was calculated. A 3-D Bar chart was made with the average for each type of salt.  The results showed that the hypothesis of sea salt making the fuel cell run the longest was incorrect. The data shows the sea salt didn’t make the motor start at all.  This could be because it is too concentrated from the amount of salt used.  The Epsom salt test had only the first test start the motor as this is not really a salt so it will not work for this fuel cell.  It is thought that there was energy left in the motor from the previous table salt test that gave a false start for Epsom salt Test 1. 




Average Length of Time the Fuel Cell Ran

Table Salt








1

2

3

4

5

Average

Time

596

1212

449

655

496

682








Softener Salt








1

2

3

4

5

Average

Time

872

1424

189

0

0

497








Epsom Salt








1

2

3

4

5

Average

Time

32

0

0

0

0

6








Ice Melting Salt








1

2

3

4

5

Average

Time

0

0

0

0

0

0








Sea Salt








1

2

3

4

5

Average

Time

0

0

0

0

0

0


Conclusion

It was observed that once the fuel cell was loaded into the car with the table salt that the motor quickly started.  The second test was the best then the times returned to more average times.   This happened with the Softener salt as well except that the last two tests the motor didn’t start.  This could be because the softener salt pellet had completely dissolved into the water by the last two tests. Which created too much salt in the water for the fuel cell to work as above 20% salt to water will make the car work less efficient or not at all.  It is thought that this is the same reason the ¼ tsp. of sea salt in the hypothesis didn’t make the cell work.  It was observed in the Ice melting salt that the motor didn’t start because there are other chlorides in the mixture that prevented the NaCl from working on the magnesium.  The project could have been made better if OWI sold a track to fit the car or the car fit other tracks that are sold. Since it didn’t fit any tracks the car had to be held to run the tests. 

Practical Application

Here is where each type of salt is usually used and what it is made up of:  The Scientific name for Table salt is NaCl, Sodium chloride. Table salt is for seasoning food and preserving food. The Scientific name for Sea Salt is NaCl also. Sea Salt Is used for seasoning food at the end of cooking. The Scientific name for Epsom Salt is MgSO4* 7H2O, Magnesium sulfate crystals which is not actually a salt. Epsom Salt is used for many health and gardening purposes as a natural alternative. The Scientific name for Softener Salt is NaCl. Softener Salt is used to improve how soaps and detergents work.  It also helps prevent scale build-up in water heaters and pipes. The Scientific name for Ice Melting Salt is NaCl KCL MgCl CaCl2, Sodium chloride, Potassium chloride, Magnesium chloride, and Calcium chloride. Ice Melting Salt dissolves to lower the freezing point of ice and then starts to melt the ice. 
The car contains a fuel cell which is an electrochemical cell that uses a fuel to make energy that is an electrical energy. The cell will continue working as long as the reactant and oxidant flows are constant. An air-depolarizing battery is used in this cell. The battery needs an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte. The magnesium sheet is the anode.  The porous carbon sheet provides the cathode. This experiment will test different kinds of salt water which is the electrolyte. The salt water will react with the magnesium sheet and the carbon sheet to create an electrical current.  Knowledge was gained about different kinds of salts and an electrochemical cell that uses fuel to make energy.  This experience will teach whoever has done the tests, how to make good salt water for gargling when sick.

Abstract
NaCl H2O FUEL
Physical Category
6th Grade Center
This project uses a Salt Water Powered Car made by OWI INC.  The hypothesis is if Sea Salt is used the Salt Water Fuel Cell will run for the longest amount of time.  What kind of salt will make a salt water powered car run the longest? If the kind of salt is changed will that change the length of time the fuel cell will run?

To test the hypothesis, first gather all the items. Then build the car from the kit. All tests were done with ½ cup of water and ¼ tsp. of each of the 5 types of salt.  Follow the instructions in the kit for preparing the fuel cell and loading it in the car.  Then hold the car in the air and start the timer when the wheels begin to turn record the stop time in the table for each of the 5 tests.

The line graphs show a trend of the second test being the longest in the two salts that worked. Then the times returned to more average times.   It also shows that 3 of the salts tried didn’t produce the necessary reaction to make the fuel cell work.  The hypothesis of sea salt making the fuel cell run the longest was incorrect. The data shows the sea salt didn’t make the motor start at all. I believe this is because it is too concentrated from the amount of salt used.


 Bibliography

“Air-depolarized-battery.”Encyclopedia Britannica. 9 Dec. 2012
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/56126/battery/45851/Air-depolarized-batteries

“Anode.”Encyclopedia Britannica. 9 Dec. 2012
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/26508/anode

“For Your Home.”Morton Salt. Morton Salt, Inc. 9 Dec. 2012

http://www.mortonsalt.com

Kurlansky, Mark. Salt: A World History. London, England: Penguin Books, 2003.


Pentland, William. “Salt Water Fuel Cells – Coming Soon?”Forbes. 9 Dec. 2012.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2012/03/27salt-water-fuel-cells-coming-soon/



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