Hydrogen Energy Webquest


As you learned in my presentation, hydrogen is the simplest of all elements, consisting of a single proton and an electron.  Hydrogen is useful as an energy source when in its gaseous diatomic form (H2).  It can be used as an energy source either when directly combusted or to drive electrochemical reactions.  It is most commonly used as a fuel source to propel space vehicles, and is now being viewed as a fuel for cars, trucks, buses, and even watercraft and airplanes.

Unlike coal, oil, nuclear, solar, or wind, hydrogen is not a primary energy source.  Instead, it is a high-energy intermediate that can be generated by chemical reactions of organic molecules (including fossil fuels) or by electrical-based hydrolysis of water.  Vehicles that are powered by hydrogen do not emit carbon dioxide, as do conventional gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles.  Thus, if the hydrogen is generated by carbon-free processes like nuclear, solar, hydro, or wind, vehicles can be propelled using systems that do not emit greenhouse gasses.  Conversely, if the hydrogen is generated by processing of organic molecules - such as through coal gasification, carbon dioxide will be produced.  However, advocates argue that such carbon can be sequestered and placed deep into the ocean or underground where it would not act as a greenhouse gas. 

Many people believe that hydrogen holds great promise as a viable fuel source, and even believe that it can be the basis for our economy, much as fossil fuels are now.  They envision our transportation systems being dominated by hydrogen-powered vehicles that do not emit greenhouse gases. 

Other people are more skeptical, pointing to high costs for producing fuel cells, difficulty containing hydrogen over wide ranging environmental conditions, and inherent inefficiencies associated with multiple energy transformations.

The purpose of this webquest is to enable teams of students to learn more about hydrogen as a source of energy, and determine its potential to serve as a significant source of alternative energy in the future.


The team assigned to this webquest is to review the websites listed below.  Students in that team are to answer the following questions:
  • What evidence supports the idea that hydrogen can provide a significant proportion of electrical demand in the future?
  • Does everybody agree with that evidence?  If not, explain.
  • We know that hydrogen production is better developed in some locations than others. 
    • Can production be enhanced in those areas in which it is already developed?
    • Can production be developed in areas where it is now minimally developed?
  • What are the technical impediments to development and deployment of hydrogen power?
  • Can those impediments be overcome?
  • What environmental problems does hydrogen power pose?
  • What social / political problems?
  • Do any laws or regulations prevent the deployment of new hydrogen power?
  • Is hydrogen power truly sustainable?

The student team assigned to this topic will conduct a webquest using the following websites:
On 3 December, the student team assigned this topic will give a 20 minute Powerpoint-based presentation in which they will answer the questions.


Students will be evaluated using the following rubric.  The grade will reflect both an individual and a team performance.

Team-based items

First one-two minutes clearly understandable, audience led into the objectives of the talk
First one-two minutes mostly understandable, audience should be partly prepared for objectives of the talk
First one-two minutes generally not understanable, audience not really prepared for objectives of the talk
Clearly outlined
Presented in a general way, but one or more details confusing
Not clearly indicated
Number of bullet points addressed
Bullet 1
Discussion provided substantial insight into online resources, accurate presentation of information in articles, clear synthesis that goes well beyond rehashing posted information.
Discussion provided acceptable insight into online resources, presentation of information in articles generally accurate, some synthesis beyond rehashing posted information
Discussion provided superficial insight into online resources, evident inaccuracies in way that presentation of information in articles was presented, little synthesis beyond rehashing posted information
Bullet 2
See above
See above See above
Bullet 3
See above See above See above
Bullet 4 See above See above See above
Consistently and accurately provided
Mostly provided, or some inaccuracies
Generally not provided, or grossly inaccurate
Powerpoint text
Clearly legible
Mostly legible
Poorly legible
All clear and appropriate A few unclear or not appropriate
Many unclear or not appropriate
Integration of Powerpoint between speakers
Well integrated
Partly integrated
Not integrated
Clearly executed, excellent summary of main points and synthesis
Generally well executed with acceptable summary of main points and synthesis
None or poorly executed, with unclear summary and / or no real synthesis
Length 18-21 minutes 16-18 minutes <16, >21 minute

Individual-based items:

Level of contribution to overall team effort
Clearly an integral part of overall effort
Secondary level of contribution to overall effort
Minor level of contribution to overall effort
Level of knowledge about topic
Clearly excellent grasp
Generally good grasp, some minor uncertainty
Clear level of uncertainty about topic
Upbeat, professional demeanor
Some unprofessional comments / mannerisms at times
Significant unprofessional demeanor
Good (minor reading or a bit too much focus on screen) Poor (too much reading or excessive focus on screen)
Rate of information delivery Excellent
Slightly too fast or too slow
Significantly too fast or too slow
Eye contact with audience
Some sluring or mispronunciation of a few words
Significant sluring or mispronunciations throughout presentation

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This page posted and maintained by Kenneth M. Klemow, Ph.D., Biology Department, Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766. (570) 408-4758, kklemow@wilkes.edu.