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Fuel Cells in Energy Technology

Module PH2068

This module handbook serves to describe contents, learning outcome, methods and examination type as well as linking to current dates for courses and module examination in the respective sections.

Module version of SS 2022 (current)

There are historic module descriptions of this module. A module description is valid until replaced by a newer one.

Whether the module’s courses are offered during a specific semester is listed in the section Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature below.

available module versions
SS 2022SS 2021SS 2020SS 2019SS 2018SS 2017SS 2011

Basic Information

PH2068 is a semester module in English language at Master’s level which is offered in summer semester.

This Module is included in the following catalogues within the study programs in physics.

  • Specific catalogue of special courses for condensed matter physics
  • Specific catalogue of special courses for Applied and Engineering Physics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for nuclear, particle, and astrophysics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for Biophysics

If not stated otherwise for export to a non-physics program the student workload is given in the following table.

Total workloadContact hoursCredits (ECTS)
150 h 60 h 5 CP

Responsible coordinator of the module PH2068 is Werner Schindler.

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


  • Global energy issues and the role of fuel cells in this scenario
  • Principles of fuel cells
  • Overview of dfferent types of fuel cells
  • Thermodynamic and electrochemical fundamentals related to fuel cells: equilibrium voltages (Nernst equation), conversion efficiencies
  • Fundamentals of electrocatalysis, electrode kinetics (Butler-Volmer relation), current-voltage curves of fuel cells
  • Overview of applications of fuel cells (space, military, mobile, etc.)
  • Anode reactions in fuel cells (hydrogen, methanol, ethanol oxidation)
  • Cathode reaction in fuel cells (oxygen reaction)
  • Polymer electrolyte fuel cells
  • Direct methanol fuel cells and direct alcohol fuel cells
  • Solid oxide fuel cells; reformation processes; direct fuel cells
  • Stationary applications of fuel cells
  • Automotive and transport applications of fuel cells
  • Production and storage of hydrogen in a hydrogen economy

Learning Outcome

After participation in the module the student is able to:

  • Explain the thermodynamic and electrochemical fundamentals of fuel cells
  • Discuss the pro and contras of the various fuel cell types
  • Discuss environmental and economic issues related to fuel cells (e.g. efficiency, necessary infrastructure for fuel cell based economies)


In general no major preconditions in addition to the requirements for the Master’s program in Physics. However, basic knowledge in chemical agents and chemical reactions would be helpful - although not required.

Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

Learning and Teaching Methods

This module consists of a lecture and an exercise. The learning content is thematically structured presented in the lecture. Special emphasis is laid onto the principal physical and chemical aspects, and their relevance to this field. The exercise is intended to intensify the teached knowledge from the lecture in an interactive way with the students. Either individually or in small work groups. Finally the students shall be able to apply the learned knowledge independently.


Powerpoint, blackboard, lecture sheets, exercise sheets


  • K. Kordesch & G. Simader: Fuel Cells and Their Applications, VCH, Weinheim, (1996)
  • J. Larminie & A. Dicks: Fuel Cell Systems Explained, John Wiley, West Sussex, (2000)
  • H.C.H. Hamann & W. Vielstich: Elektrochemie, 4th Ed., Wiley VCH, (2005)
  • R.A. Zahoransky: Energietechnik, 4. Auflage, Vieweg/Teubner, (2009)

Module Exam

Description of exams and course work

There will be an oral exam of 30 minutes duration. Therein the achievement of the competencies given in section learning outcome is tested exemplarily at least to the given cognition level using comprehension questions and sample calculations.

For example an assignment in the exam might be:

  • What is the principle / energetics of a fuel cell?
  • What is the efficiency / loss of a fuel cell?
  • Which role does the catalyst play?
  • Which advantages / disadvantages do various fuels have?

In the exam no learning aids are permitted.

Participation in the exercise class is strongly recommended since the exercises prepare for the problems of the exam and rehearse the specific competencies.

Exam Repetition

The exam may be repeated at the end of the semester.

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