Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years, which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


The goal is to understand the physical foundations of fuel cells, operational principles of different fuel cell types and their practical applications as well as to the key areas of hydrogen technology at a level adequate for needs found in practical or academic environments.

After the course, students will be able to

  • List the cell reaction, electrolyte and electrode materials, compatible fuels, typical operating conditions and common applications of the most important fuel cell technologies
  • Explain the fundamental working principle of polymer electrolyte membrane (PEMFC) and solid oxide (SOFC) fuel cells in terms of their structure and underlying physical phenomena
  • Determine from thermodynamic principles the reversible cell voltage of a fuel cell, and how it depends on temperature, pressure and reactant concentrations
  • Name the most important performance loss mechanisms of PEMFCs and SOFCs, and describe how they relate to the material and structural properties of the fuel cell
  • Explain the theoretical derivation of Nernst, Butler-Volmer, and Tafel equations, and use them to interpret experimental result and evaluate performance of catalyst and electrode materials
  • Describe and evaluate the efficiency and operating characteristics of PEMFCs and SOFCs through a fuel cell model, and determine its parameters by fitting to experimental polarization curves
  • Describe the properties of hydrogen as a fuel, and its safety aspects and storage technologies
  • Sketch and perform simple design calculations of fuel cell systems for portable, transportation and combined heat and power production

Credits: 5

Schedule: 13.01.2021 - 12.04.2021

Teacher in charge (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022): Janne Halme

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Janne Halme

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):

CEFR level (applies in this implementation):

Language of instruction and studies (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022):

Teaching language: English

Languages of study attainment: English


  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Physical principles and thermodynamics of electrochemical energy conversion and fuel cells. Fuel cell reaction kinetics and charge transport. Polymer electrolyte membrane and solid oxide fuel cells, their electrochemistry, heat and mass transfer. Performance characteristics and efficiency of fuel cells, and factors affecting them. Fuel cell modeling, polarization curves, and fuel cell measurement techniques. Hydrogen as a fuel and its characteristics, storage and use, and safety aspects. Fuel cell systems and applications. Lab work to measure the performance of a fuel cell.

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Exercises, homework, lab work and final exam.

  • Applies in this implementation:

    In 2021, the course will be organized 100 % online.

  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    32 h contact teaching, 20 h group work, 78 h self-study


Study Material
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    O Hayre, R., Cha, S. W., Prinz, F. B., & Colella, W. (2016). Fuel cell fundamentals. John Wiley & Sons (3rd edition). The book is available as an E-book via Aalto library. Lecture notes and supporting material.

Substitutes for Courses
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Replaces the course Tfy-56.4332 Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Technology.

SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

    6 Clean Water and Sanitation

    7 Affordable and Clean Energy

    8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

    9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

    11 Sustainable Cities and Communities