skip to content

Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

 
The One Show, 17 July 2009

The One Show on BBC1 on Friday, 17 July was devoted to the Apollo moon missions and British technology that helped make them possible.

One piece of that technology was the Bacon fuel cell, a highly efficient, simple, practical and reliable way of producing the electrical power needed by the Apollo spacecraft. It was developed in this department by F.T. (Tom) Bacon in the 1950s and produces electrical power directly from the electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. At that time the proposed Apollo moon probe was designed with hydrogen and oxygen on board for propulsion and life support. The fuel cell was an ideal source of on-board electrical power with the additional advantage that the exhaust water could be used both for drinking by the crew and humidification of the capsule's atmosphere.

An original fuel cell, pictured below, is now in the Whipple Museum, Cambridge University.

Emeritus Professor John Davidson remembers Tom Bacon and an interview with him was included in the program. He said, "When he first met you he would ask you what your scientific and engineering interests were. If it had any bearing on the fuel cell he was deeply interested, if it had no bearing, he would switch off immediately."

The success of the Apollo mission is history and on a subsequent visit made by Bacon to the United States, President Richard Nixon put his arm around Tom's shoulders and said, "Tom, without you, we wouldn't have gotten to the moon".  

The Bacon Fuel CellMore about the fuel cell

Moon landing anniversary: a giant leap for Britain, too - Telegraph article

Professor John Davidson retired in 1993 but continues to be an active member of the department.

Latest news

Dr Jenny Molloy named Fellow of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Synthetic Biology

12 October 2020

Shuttleworth Fellow Jenny Molloy, who leads our Open Bioeconomy Lab, was appointed in the recent call and will sit on the Global Future Council on Synthetic Biology for the next year.

CEB entrepreneur shines at climate tech competition with air pollution sensor network

24 September 2020

As one of three winners of the Women4Climate Tech Challenge, Lorena Gordillo-Dagallier secures funding and support to pilot her project in Stockholm and Lisbon

Katherine Smart makes brewing history as the first woman to be appointed as Renter Warden of the Worshipful Company of Brewers

27 August 2020

Our Lecturer in Brewing and Distilling Science and Diageo’s expert brewer, Katherine Smart, is the first woman to be appointed Renter Warden of one of the oldest of the City guilds or livery companies.