Build Your Own Fuel Cells


by Phillip Hurley



The technology of the future is here today - and now available to the non-engineer! The e-book* Build Your Own Fuel Cells contains complete, easy to understand illustrated instructions for building several types of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells - and, printable templates for 6 PEM fuel cell types, including convection fuel cells and oxygen-hydrogen fuel cells, in both single slice and stacks.



Low tech/high quality


Two different low-tech fuel cell construction methods are covered: one requires a bandsaw and drill press, and the other only a few hand tools. Anyone with minimum skills and tools will be able to produce high quality fuel cells from readily obtainable materials - links and contact info for materials suppliers are in the e-book.



Build Your Own Fuel Cells 





Except for printable templates, our e-books are designed to be read on a computer screen. This e-book permits printing, and prints with a light watermark copyright statement.



Electrolyzers and MEAs


Build Your Own Fuel Cells includes a detailed discussion about building a lab electrolyzer to generate hydrogen to run fuel cells - and templates for the electrolyzer. Also covered is setting up a PV solar panel to power the electrolyzer, and experimental low-tech methods for producing membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs - the heart of the fuel cell).


Build Your Own Fuel Cells is 274 e-book pages and contains extensive illustrations, 39 printable templates, and 4 Quicktime animations.





The material in this e-book is for educational and informational purposes only. The projects discussed are not suitable for children without knowledgeable adult supervision.

ONLY $12.95 to download!




A short history of the fuel cell

Grove's "gas battery"
Fuel cells today

What exactly is a fuel cell?
Fuels for fuel cells

Many sources of hydrogen
Fuel delivery packages
Hydrogen from fossil fuels
Hydrogen from water
Technology of the future
Global impact
Storing hydrogen
What is a fuel?
Water is a fuel
Who bears the real costs?
Skeletons in the closet
The hydrogen-water economy is coming!
Water based hydrogen production
Solar, wind and hydro power for electrolyzers

Types of Fuel Cells

Operating temperatures
Regenerative fuel cells


Systems & Components Overview


Photovoltaic fuel cell systems

Fuel cells vs. batteries
Components of a PV fuel cell system
Wind or small hydro power
Add-ins for the system
Fuel cell configurations
Matching the PV panels to your needs
Powering the electrolyzer
Building an electrolyzer
Compressing the hydrogen
More resources
Building a PV panel for your electrolyzer
Figuring PV panel costs
Wiring the system
Support and use components
Housing the system
Control valve

PEM fuel cell components

MEA basics
Purchasing MEAs and components
Surplus fuel cells


Building the K18 Hard Graphite
Convection Single Slice Fuel Cell


K18 Fuel Cell - Tool list
K18 Fuel Cell - Materials list
About the materials

Buying membrane electrode assemblies and components
Mounting the membrane electrode assembly
Rubber gaskets and spacers
Keep the components clean
Working with graphite
Obtaining graphite
End plates
Miscellaneous parts
Fuel cell jazz

Simple tools do the job

Wet and dry bandsaw
Drill press
Setting up for fuel cells

Preparing the graphite

Buy graphite pieces that fit your saw
Setting the water flow
Slabbing the graphite
Begin to cut
Ripping gauges
Plan the cuts carefully
Cut extra pieces
Err on the thicker side
Cut the plate to size
Sanding surface and technique
Cleaning the bandsaw
Using the templates
Drilling the holes
Routing the vertical flow fields
Routing the serpentine flow fields
Routing the serpentine flow fields

Preparing the other parts

End plates
Gas gaskets and spacers
Mylar surrounds for the MEA (membrane electrode assembly)
Handling the MEA (membrane electrode assembly)
Assemble the MEA in the Mylar surround
Electrode plate materials
Cutting the electrodes
Gas entry ports

Assembling the K18 fuel cell
Testing fuel cells

Building an electrolyzer
Buying an electrolyzer
Hook up the hydrogen
Turn on the hydrogen
Meter readings
Test for continuity within the cell
Troubleshooting no reading
Convection process




How electrolyzers work

Applying electricity
Types of electrolyzers
The tank electrolyzer
Home-built electrolyzers
The electrolyte
Preparing the electrolyte
Safety precautions

Building the P38 electrolyzer

Tools needed
Materials needed
Purpose of the P38
Use at your own risk
Electrode separators
A transparent electrolyzer
Nickel electrodes
Preparing the parts for assembly
Bottom cap
Height gauge
Maintaining the electrolyte level
Increasing amperage to the electrolyzer
Sealing the electrolyzer
Silicone cement vs. epoxy
Preparing screws and nuts
Epoxy the pipe to the bottom cap
Dry the seals and test
Aligning the top and bottom caps
Wiring it up
Filling the electrolyzer
Connecting to power


Building a scrubber
Inside tube length
Transparent scrubbers

Making an electrolyte

Tools needed
The filter bucket
The drip bucket
Add ashes and water
Wait 3 days to a week
Collect the KOH solution


Building the L78 Soft Graphite
Convection Single Slice Fuel Cell


Tool and materials list

Materials needed

Really simple tools do the job

Stick technology
Make it on your kitchen table
Print out the templates
Endplate/current collectors
Mark the end plates
Cut and drill the end plates
Soft graphite
Practice with the material
Cutting the soft graphite
Working with soft graphite
Drilling holes in soft graphite
Mark the flow fields
Making the flow field grooves
Soft graphite is forgiving
Easy construction and high performance
Aligning the holes
The hose connectors
Prepare the fasteners
Prepare the MEA
Assemble the fuel cell


Designing Fuel Cells


Ideas for designing fuel cells

Fuel cell geometry
Ceramics in fuel cells
Wooden fuel cells
Carbonizing other materials
Other natural materials for inspiration
"Biomimicry" for fuel cells
Collect supplier catalogs
Learn from the materials
Thinner and lighter designs
Use easy to obtain materials and tools
End plate materials
Plastics in fuel cells
General materials considerations
Convection vs. oxygen-hydrogen
Planning for maintenance
Banded fuel cells
Gas port plate
Stack design considerations - hardware
Operating environment
In summary

Building stacks

Bipolar plates
Plate thickness and groove depth
Gas feed in the gasket
Stack templates
Convection stack configuration
Oxygen-hydrogen stack configuration
Plan for easy disassembly
Larger stacks need gas pressure
Gas flow regulator
Additions to optimize performance
Gasket thickness affects performance


Experimental Methods for Making MEAs
(Membrane Electrode Assemblies)


About membrane electrode assemblies

MEA components
Applying the catalyst to the substrate
1. Sputter diffusion
2. A Benjamin Franklin technique
Resources for the experimenter
3. Electrochemical deposition
4. Electroless deposition
5. Mechanical Deposition
Powdering platinum
Carbon nano-tubes
Carbon and platinum mixtures
6. Electrostatic dispersion
7. Simple mixing
8. Photochemical
Platinum black
Application techniques
Brewster's reaction
Other methods to get platinum black

MEA - Tool list
MEA - Materials list
Loading the catalyst - an experimental method

Making percent solutions
MEA components
The substrate and catalyst
Construction overview
Planning to load the catalyst
Carbon cloth substrate
Cutting the cloth
Weighing the chemicals
Safety precautions
The work area
Safelight conditions
Timing and storage
Making the solution
Handling AFO
Procedure summary
Preparing the platinum solution
Water bath
Making the platinum solution
Use a brush with no metal
Coating the carbon cloth
Make a test paper
Dry the fabric pieces
Expose to UV
Washing out the ferrous salts
Other washing methods

Preparing the proton exchange membrane (PEM)

Membrane thickness
Handling the membrane
Membrane preparation
Bathing the membrane
Keep a steady temperature
Safety precautions
Keeping the membrane immersed
The first two baths
Fishing for the invisible membrane
The third bath
Last three baths
Pressing plates
Coat plate with powdered graphite
Lay out the MEA layers
Add the top plate carefully
Clamp the sandwich
Cook the sandwich
Increase the pressure

Further experiments

Lower the loading
Increase the loading
Matching gaskets to MEAs
What to expect from your MEA
Testing fuel cells
Basic test equipment




Supplier contact information




How to use the templates

K18 single slice convection
P38 Electrolyzer
L78 single slice convection
K18 single slice oxygen hydrogen
L78 single slice oxygen hydrogen
K18 convection stack
K18 oxygen hydrogen stack
Surround gasket with feed tunnels






Build a Solar Hydrogen
Fuel Cell System


by Phillip Hurley


Learn how to construct and operate the components of a solar hydrogen fuel cell system: the fuel cell stack, the electrolyzer to generate hydrogen fuel, simple hydrogen storage, and solar panels designed specifically to run electrolyzers for hydrogen production. Complete, clear, illustrated instructions to build all the major components make it easy for the non-engineer to understand and work with this important new technology.


Featured are the author's innovative and practical designs for efficient solar powered hydrogen production including:


ESPMs (Electrolyzer Specific Photovoltaic Modules) 40 watt solar panels designed specifically to run electrolyzers efficiently; a 40-80 watt electrolyzer for intermittant power from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind; and, a 6-12 watt planar hydrogen fuel cell stack to generate electricity.


Any of these components can be ganged or racked, or scaled up in size for higher output. You'll also learn how to set up an entire gas processing system, and where to find parts and materials everything you need for an experimental stationary unit that will give you a solid base for building and operating systems for larger power needs. There are even schematics for adapting conventional solar panels (BSPMs - Battery Specific Photovoltaic Modules) for efficient hydrogen production, and setting up hybrid (battery and fuel cell) PV systems.


click here to view sample pages


Build a Solar Hydrogen Fuel Cell System is 249 e-book* pages with over 135 color photos and illustrations, as well as 5 printable templates for a planar fuel cell stack.



Build a Solar Hydrogen Fuel Cell System





If you have never constructed a fuel cell before, we recommend you first study Build Your Own Fuel Cells by the same author, before you attempt to build the planar fuel cell stack discussed in this e-book.



The material in this e-book* is for educational and informational purposes only. The projects discussed are not suitable for children without knowledgeable adult supervision.

ONLY $16.95 to download!



Build a Solar Hydrogen Fuel Cell System




Caution and Disclaimer
Photovoltaic Fuel Cell Systems

The beginnings of solar hydrogen technology

Primary components

Gas processing and storage

Renewable energy sources and hybrid generating systems

Solar hydrogen versus solar battery systems

Time limits for battery storage

Hybrid energy storage systems


Solar Panels

Types of solar cells

Electrical characteristics of solar cells

Elements of photovoltaic panel construction

Task specific photovoltaic modules

Basic components to build a solar panel

Designing the ESPM

Putting the cells into the frame

Attaching the power take off box

Placing the cover

Finish wiring the panel

Designing and setting up your system

Reducing circuit loss




Data loggers

Fuses, connectors and cables

Positioning solar panels

Solar trackers

Mounting PV panels

Final design considerations



Solid electrolyte PEM vs. alkaline

Electrolyzer basics

Porous alloy electrodes

Prepared surface flat plate electrodes

Mesh electrodes

Electrode spacing

The electrolyte

Potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution strength


Water for the electrolyzer

Solar water distillation

The P41 electrolyzer

Design for renewable energy power sources

Making intermittent power efficient

Electrode materials

Thermal flywheel


Micro and macro electrode surface considerations

Raney metal surfaces

Electrode shape

Hydrostatic pressure

Building the P41 Electrolyzer

Tool list

Materials list

Building the P41

Electrolyzer tank

Positive electrode assembly ports

Gas exit port cap preparation

Separator preparation

Positive electrode assembly preparation


Slip out the screw and the mesh cylinder

The installed positive electrode connectors

Negative electrode assembly preparation

Preparing the bottom cap

Installing electrolyte entry head/negative electrode assembly

Installing gas port exit cylinder head and gas separator

Hydrostatic testing

Power supply connections

Testing the electrolyzer with KOH

Setting up the electrolyzer

Electrolyte reservoir

Set up the exit port tubes

Connect to the power source

Fill the electrolyzer

As you like it

Quick comparisons

BSPMs and electrolyzers

Series connected electrolyzers

Setting up electrolyzer banks

Parallel connected electrolyzers

Stand alone configuration

Large electrolyzers vs. small electrolyzer banks

Designing your own electrolyzers

Electrolyzer performance testing

Collect performance data for RE power sources

Testing equipment

Measuring gas output

Gas production formulas


Gas Processing System

Hydrogen history and characteristics

Hydrogen safety


Hydrogen proof seals

Restrict access to the hydrogen area

Make electrical devices hydrogen safe

Hydrogen compared to other fuels

Hydrogen in the presence of oxygen


Oxygen and safety

Generated or ambient oxygen?

Moisture and fuel cells

Removing contaminants

Scrubbers and diffusers

Filters and coalescers


Check valves and regulators

Environment of operation

System longevity

Gas processing system

Gas scrubber

Vinegar and distilled water

Experiment with different designs

Making bubblers

Tool list

Materials list for 2 bubblers

Other parts for gas processing system

Making a bubbler


Connecting the valves and tubing

Mounting the system

Component configuration

Additions to the system

Gas detection system

Catalytic recombiners

Safety considerations for recombiners

Building a recombiner

Purging option

Pressure gauges, indicators, and switches

Component upgrading

Gas storage

Liquid phase storage

Hydride storage

Metal organic frameworks

Low tech alternatives

Double drum storage

Floating tank storage

Calculating tank capacity

Adding pressure

Safe storage

Setup and check the system


Planar Fuel Cell Stack

Fuel cell basics

Types of fuel cells

PEM fuel cell configurations

Planar fuel cell stacks

Build the L79 planar fuel cell stack

Tool list

Materials list

Constructing the L79

Selecting the materials for the electrode/gas flow field

Preparing the electrodes for template transfer

Transferring the templates

Etching the board

Remove the resist

Routing the flow fields

Using a drill press or milling machine

Setting up for milling

Controlling the depth

Smooth the edges and clean the plates

Materials for plating the circuit

Brush plating

Plating kits

Tinning the series edge connectors

Preparing the tab connects

Making the electrode gasket

Making the surrounds

Inserting the membranes

Attach the gas supply gasket

Preparing the end plate

Aligning the plates

Soldering the series connections and power takeoff tabs

Preparing the pressure braces

Installing the gas port connectors

Final Assembly

Prepare the stack for testing

Purging the stack

Testing the fuel cell stack

Trouble shooting

Fuel cell power supplies

Output configurations

Running the stacks




Templates for the Planar Fuel Cell Stack










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