A general chemistry experiment has been adapted in which electrochemical principles in fuel cells are applied to the curriculum, thus bringing research into the classroom. It is well documented that students struggle in understanding redox reactions, in particular when applied to an electrochemical cell. There are three basic concepts needed to analyze these energy devices: anode, cathode and electrolyte.
In the proposed experiment, undergraduate students explored the role on an electrolyte in an electrochemical cell. Inquiry based methods were used to introduce the experiment. Explanations of fundamental electrochemical concepts involved in fuel cells were introduced to the students with pre- and post-laboratory activities and experimental results discussions. The lesson for the experiment “role of an electrolyte in an electrochemical cell” was planned to improve students’ technological skills and application of knowledge acquired in daily life. The battery was made using household materials: zinc, copper and napkin paper soaked in different electrolyte solutions. Students correlated the voltage of the cells with the substances being used in the experiment and classified these as strong electrolyte, weak electrolyte or non electrolyte. A variety of assessment tools were designed and incorporated during the experience to probe students understanding in the main topics and to identify the struggles during their learning process.