Opportunity – Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking Call for Proposals


The FCH Joint Undertaking have issued a Call for proposals providing up to €116 million funding, across 24 topics. This includes 7 transport topics, 12 energy topics, and 5 topics for cross-cutting. More information on the call and the 24 topics can be found on the page of Call 2017.

Update: An information day was held in Brussels on the 2nd February. Presentations from that event are available for download at http://www.fch.europa.eu/page/info-day-2017.

Solid metal hydrogen announcement makes global headlines

Have a pair of Harvard scientists created the most powerful form of energy storage known to humanity?

Hydrogen hit the headlines this weekend, as Harvard researchers Ranga Dias and Isaac Silvera published a paper in Science claiming to have transmuted hydrogen into a solid metal (Observation of the Wigner-Huntington transition to metallic hydrogen). The pair first announced their discovery in October last year, but the full details have not been made available until now and the breakthrough is causing quite a stir.

Researchers have been attempting to produce solid metal hydrogen since it was first theorised in 1935 (E. Wigner, H. B. Huntington, On the possibility of a metallic modification of hydrogen. J. Chem. Phys. 3, 764–770 (1935)). Silva and Dias claim to have at last achieved success by slowly ratcheting up the pressure in a diamond vice to 495 GPa, 50% higher than the pressure in the centre of the Earth. Under these conditions their team observed the material changing from transparent to black to a shiny red; evidence enough for a metallic solid, according to their paper.

There is nothing new in submitting hydrogen to extreme pressure, but Silva and Dias believe they succeeded where others failed by cutting back on high-intensity laser spectroscopy, which can destroy the diamond or the hydrogen it is trained on. Instead they initially used a low intensity laser to avoid damaging the sample:

For fear of diamond failure due to laser illumination and possible heating of the black sample, we only measured the Raman active phonon at the very highest pressure of the experiment (495 GPa) after the sample transformed to metallic hydrogen and reflectance measurements had been made.

The potential for metallic hydrogen could be huge, as it is predicted to be a room-temperature superconductor which could revolutionise materials science. Its potential for storing energy could also be phenomenal. In a previous paper, Silvera suggested that hydrogen compressed to a metal could pack so much energy that it could be ‘The Most Powerful Rocket Fuel Yet to Exist’.

Much of this potential depends on whether or not metallic hydrogen is metastable and would retain its solid form once extreme pressure was released. As it stands, the paper offers no answer to this question. Having reached the critical pressure required to create their sample, the team have not yet modified their set-up for fear of destroying the sample. This has left a lot of questions unanswered – is it really a solid? Is it stable?

Big claims require big evidence, and the team has come in for criticism from several quarters for a lack of follow-through on their experiment. Science’s online announcement of the news gave rise to the kind of heated comments threads usually found on political news reports. Nonetheless, Silver and Dias stand by their results, saying that they wanted to announce the news before a second-round of tests potentially destroy their sample. ‘If people disagree, they should go to measure it and try to show that it’s different than what was claimed’, Silvera suggested.

Teams across the world will undoubtedly be throwing themselves into that very task, so we can expect more news on this subject as the year unfolds. If nothing else, the Harvard group have our attention.

EMSA study analyses fuel cell applications in shipping

The European Maritime Safety Agency released a technical study this week, reviewing 23 maritime Fuel Cell projects and assessing which technologies hold the most promise for improving shipping in the future. The report, which was conducted and prepared by DNV-GL, concluded that the three most promising hydrogen technologies were first Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFCs), followed by High Temperature PEMFCs and then Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs).

Low-temperature PEMFCs won the gold for being a mature, safe and relatively cheap technology. High temperature PEMFCs were judged as more efficient but less safe, while SOFCs scored relatively poorly on cycling tolerance and cost.

However the report acknowledged that different technologies could complement each other, and that

“Smaller and medium applications may favour low and medium temperature technology, such as PEM and high temperature PEM. Larger applications which can more easily accommodate waste heat solutions, such as industrial and large maritime, are better for the high temperature solutions such as molten carbonate or solid oxide fuel cells.”

The full study, which also included a regulatory analysis and safety assessment for different fuel cell technologies on board ship, can be downloaded here.

Opportunity: Hydrogen Trade Mission to Aragon (Spain)

The Scottish Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA) has established a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the corresponding trade association in the Spanish region of Aragon: the Aragon Hydrogen Foundation (FHA). A reciprocal trade mission with Aragon is now being planned, for the purpose of forging better links and nurturing trade and technology partnership opportunities. The date for this mission is February 2017, travelling out on Wednesday 15th February for a series of meetings and activities on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th February 2017 in and near Zaragoza, the principal city of Aragon. The mission is also likely to include a visit to the FHA facilities in Huesca, located about 30 miles from Zaragoza.

Arrangements are currently being put in place for this trade mission. It will be comprised of representatives from the Scottish Government and their agencies, together with a number of SHFCA members who have active interest in building trade and partnership links. However, there may still be a couple of places available, along with some financial support available towards meeting travel and accommodation costs.

If you or your organisation would like to take part in this mission to Aragon in February 2017 and have not already expressed interest, please email Nigel Holmes at nigel.holmes@shfca.org.uk, with ‘SHFCA Member Interest in Aragon Mission’ included in the message header.

The Aragon Hydrogen Foundation (FHA) has a very similar number and composition of members as SHFCA, for information about FHA members and their regional strategy for hydrogen and fuel cells please take a look at the FHA website, which also includes other details and links to the Aragon 2016-2020 Masterplan: http://hidrogenoaragon.org/en/master-plan/.

BEIS contract opportunity: ‘Hydrogen supply chain technical evidence and modelling tool’

Closing date: Monday 13th February 2017, 3:00pm

Estimated total value: £250,000, divided into 2 lots.

The UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are seeking tenders for work on Hydrogen supply chain technical evidence and modelling tool. The procurement documents are available for unrestricted and full direct access at: http://www.delta-esourcing.com/tenders/UK-UK-London:-Research-services./62B97ZCU8C.

The main aim of this project is to improve our current understanding of the technical-infrastructural requirements, and associated energy system costs, for a transition towards a reliance on low carbon hydrogen to meet the demand for heat. This will involve:

  1. collating and assessing the evidence base and
  2. developing a modelling tool.

The primary focus of this work will be to assess hydrogen infrastructure evidence for heat in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. The tool should also be able to incorporate the appropriate functionality to allow it to model geographical demands.

Contract start date: 6 March 2017

Contract end date: 14 August 2017

Find out more and register your interest here.

New Hydrogen Council launches in Davos

As the hydrogen industry takes its place on the world phase, a symbolic launch of new industry group The Hydrogen Council took place at Davos yesterday. The newly-formed council was the brainchild of the EU’s ‘Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking’, and consists of Chairpeople and CEOs from 13 major companies with a commercial interest in hydrogen. The Council’s stated goal is to work together to accelerate investment in commercial fuel cell and hydrogen projects. The represented companies are:

  • Air Liquide,
  • Alstom,
  • Anglo American,
  • Daimler,
  • ENGIE,
  • Honda,
  • Hyundai Motor,
  • Kawasaki,
  • Royal Dutch Shell,
  • The Linde Group,
  • Total
  • Toyota

Collectively this group represents over a trillion Euros in revenues and a combined workforce of 1.72 million people. It marks a serious push into the hydrogen sector, by serious players.

The Council plans to provide recommendations to policy makers, business people, international agencies and civil society to achieve their goals of commercialising hydrogen and keeping global warming to within 2 degrees above historical averages. After its first meeting at Davos, the Council released two statements for its co-Chairs: the CEO of Air Liquide and the Chairman of Toyota.

“The 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate change is a significant step in the right direction but requires business action to be taken to make such a pledge a reality. The Hydrogen Council brings together some of the world’s leading industrial, automotive and energy companies with a clear ambition to explain why hydrogen emerges among the key solutions for the energy transition, in the mobility as well as in the power, industrial and residential sectors, and therefore requires the development of new strategies at a scale to support this. But we cannot do it alone. We need governments to back hydrogen with actions of their own – for example through large-scale infrastructure investment schemes. Our call today to world leaders is to commit to hydrogen so that together we can meet our shared climate ambitions and give further traction to the emerging Hydrogen ecosystem.”

  • Benoît Potier, CEO, Air Liquide.

“The Hydrogen Council will exhibit responsible leadership in showcasing hydrogen technology and its benefits to the world. It will seek collaboration, cooperation and understanding from governments, industry and most importantly, the public. At Toyota, we have always tried to play a leading role in environmental and technological advances in the automotive industry, including through the introduction of fuel cell vehicles. Moreover, we know that in addition to transportation, hydrogen has the potential to support our transition to a low carbon society across multiple industries and the entire value chain. The Hydrogen Council aims to actively encourage this transition.”

  • Takeshi Uchiyamada, Chairman, Toyota.

To further mark their creation, the newly-formed council has released a report titled ‘How Hydrogen empowers the energy transition‘, now available for download in our Library page.

Tandem electrodes improves efficiency for ‘photosynthesised’ hydrogen

In a piece of good news to start off the year, researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea and Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin in Germany have announced an efficiency breakthrough for their ‘artificial leaf’ project, which is really more like artificial seaweed. The research, published in Nature Communications, looks at mimicking aquatic plant photosynthesis to split water into its constituent elements.

The theory of solar water splitting is well understood, but finding the right photoelectrode materials has proved difficult. The Korean/German team favoured metal oxide semiconductors for their robustness and low cost, but needed to enhance their poor solar-to-hydrogen conversion rates. The team’s approach was to combine two established metal oxide photoanodes (BiVO4 and Fe2O3), which complement each other’s receptive properties on the solar spectrum. Unfortunately, when the materials were combined directly in a bilayer formation, their performance dropped markedly. Instead, the team came up with a ‘hetero-type dual photoelectrode (HDP)’, in which the materials were placed in parallel to form a tandem cell. BiVO4 as the front photoanode can utilise smaller wavelength photons, while longer wavelengths pass through to be collected by the Fe2O3 layer.

Interestingly, the idea mimics the behaviour of seaweed colonies and marine algae, which have evolved to layer themselves in different coloured bands at different depths in the sea. Green seaweed floats in the shallows and is receptive to red light, while the deeper-penetrating blue light is picked up by red weed. A single seaweed colony can vary its colours selectively as it descends in depth, optimising its photosynthesis for each layer.

The tandem cell set a new performance benchmark for metal oxide photoanodes, and the team believe that the HDP concept could prove a route to practical solar hydrogen production. “We aim to achieve 10% enhanced light harvesting efficiency within three years,” said Professor Jae Sung Lee. “This technology will greatly contribute to the establishment of the renewable-energy-type hydrogen refueling station by supplying cheap fuel for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The H2FC 2016 Research Conference

The H2FC SUPERGEN had its fourth Research Conference in Belfast, UK, on 12-14th Dec 2016. We thank all the 130 delegates who attended and presented their research to the community. With participants joining the UK H2FC community from fourteen other countries, our delegates ranged from PhD students to senior academics working in te filed and some delegates from industry.

Over the course of three days, our keynote speakers anchored the conference with talks covering the breadth of hydrogen research, covering latest developments in the field as well as the challenges that need to be addressed for accelerating the commercialisation of the H2FC technologies.  Dr. Steven Holdcroft from Simon Fraser University (Canada) spoke on “Canadian research strategies for the commercialization of automotive fuel cells”, Dr. Fausto Gallucci from the Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands) took us through the latest results of “hydrogen production in membrane reactors”, while Prof. Thomas Jordan in his role as President of the International Association of Hydrogen Safety laid out some “research priorities for hydrogen safety” .

But perhaps the most popular talk was “Understanding the H21 Leeds City Gate Report: converting the natural gas network to hydrogen”. Dan Sadler, Head of Energy Futures at Northern Gas Networks, presented the latest progress from this exciting scheme, the aim of which is to switch the entire city of Leeds from gas to hydrogen heating.

The conference dinner, held in Belfast City Hall on Monday, was attended by the Belfast Lord Mayor Brian Kingston, who welcomed the conference delegates to the city and provided an update on the cities industrial activities. On Tuesday the poster presenters did a brilliant job defending their work, and some even endured a nerve-wracking ‘3 Minute Thesis’ competition, where they fought to summarise their thesis work in a quick-fire presentation format.

In the end, the winners of the Poster Prizes and 3MT were:

  • Oujen Hodjati-Pugh (University of Birmingham): “Three-dimensional Modelling of a Microtubular SOFC: A Multiphysics Approach”
  • Hyunchul Oh (Gyeongnam National University of Science and Technology): “A single-step procedure to determine the theoretical H2 storage capacity and textural properties of MOFs by hydrogen adsorption at 20 K”
  • Kathrin Preuss (Queen Mary University of London): “Sustainable carbon catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction in fuel cells”
  • Stephen Rhatigan (Tyndall National Institute(: “Water Splitting – an atomistic study”

Congratulations to the winners and to all the presenters who exposed their research to an audience of their peers. Overall, the Conference was a huge success, building on the numbers and energy from 2015’s conference in Bath. Our thanks again to everybody who made the journey, and we look forward to seeing you all again next time!

From L-R: Professor Nigel Brandon (Imperial), Professor Raffaella Folli (Ulster), Lord Mayor Brian Kingston, Professor Vladimir Molkov (Ulster)


Some of the H2FC delegates at the Belfast City Hall
Some of the H2FC delegates at the Belfast City Hall

BEIS contract: ‘Understanding the costs and technical potential of hydrogen for heat in the UK energy sector’

Consultation closes Monday 30th January 2017

Contract starts 20th February 2017

Contract closes 30th June 2017

BEIS is looking for bidders to fill an open contract, to improve its modelling capability in the field of hydrogen infrastructure modelling. In order to do so will require:

  1. An assessment of existing evidence for the hydrogen supply chain
  2. The development of a hydrogen infrastructure tool

The first part of this project would gather evidence on all parts of the hydrogen supply chain, assessing the certainty we have in these assumptions for a UK context.

The second part of this project will involve a hydrogen infrastructure tool. This tool must include the functionality to be able to model:

  • Varied geographical and temporal demand
  • Intermittency of renewable energy sources
  • Transport and storage of resources

This is likely to require:

  • High level of temporal detail
  • High level of spatial detail

The final stage of this project will be to incorporate the evidence into the hydrogen infrastructure model.

To read more about this opportunity, go to https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Notice/e7aa670a-c5d1-49af-bf7f-e675a9276a04?p=@JNT08=UFQxblRRPT0=Nz.

UK Committee on Climate Change proposes a hydrogen heating grid

The UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is the British parliament’s independent carbon advisory body, and its reccommendations carry significant weight among policymakers. It is interesting, then, that the CCC’s latest report, Next Steps for UK Heat Policy, puts hydrogen for heat squarely on the policy agenda.

The report is blunt that heating is a major driver of the UK’s carbon emissions, and that progress in reducing heat emissions has largely stalled. The UK ‘needs a credible new strategy and a much stronger policy framework for buildings decarbonisation over the next three decades’. Action is required, and the report leads its ‘Key Messages’ by putting hydrogen front and centre as a possible solution:

Government must set out the role of hydrogen for buildings on the gas grid in the next Parliament. The Government will need to make a set of decisions in the next Parliament and beyond on the best strategy for decarbonising buildings on the gas grid. Specifically, it will have to decide on whether there is a role for hydrogen supplied through existing gas networks (extending the useful life of the gas grid infrastructure) alongside other technologies such as heat pumps.

The report goes on to describe the use of hydrogen for heating as ‘technically feasible’, and benefiting from the fact that it requires no behavioural change from consumers. The problems lie in the potential costs of the changeover and the feasibility of large-scale carbon capture and storage, thus the Committee urges government to adopt a strategy of testing the waters with regulations, demonstration projects and innovation grants:

To understand whether this is desirable and how best to proceed, it will be vital to undertake pilots and demonstrations in the next decade.

If hydrogen proves technically or economically unfeasible, the report suggests heat pumps as an alternate low-carbon technology. Nonetheless, for a major advisory body to recommend the possibility of hydrogen for heat, and on a national scale, is big news. This idea is rising very quickly into serious policy discussions, and we can expect to see more mention of it in the years to come.

To read the full report, go to https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/next-steps-for-uk-heat-policy/.