Research Reports

Institute: St Andrews

Tailoring of microstructural evolution in impregnated SOFC electrodes

Prof. John Irvine

The objective of this project is to develop and demonstrate solution methods for introducing the active constituents into SOFCs. If successful, the new approach could be applied to the manufacture of fuel cells that combine high performance with durability and resistance to contaminants.

Methodologies will be developed to tailor impregnations over a broad range of composition space. Studies utilising electrochemical, spectroscopic and microstructural techniques will be used to test performance, durability and resistance to contaminants, thus informing a choice of impregnate systems.

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For a detailed presentation on the project, click through here.


Institute: Imperial College

Control of structure, strain and chemistry: route to designer interfaces in SOFCs

Prof. Stephen Skinner

This project will provide unique insights into the processes that control charge transport at interfaces in fuel cells, and will provide routes to engineer optimized electrodes. The key objectives in this project are to:

  1. Determine surface chemistry of air-electrode environment interfaces under operating conditions (in operando).
  2. Relate catalytic activity to surface structure and cation segregation effects.
  3. Probe strain and structure at buried interfaces (electrolyte/electrode).
  4. Design and manufacture electrode structures with 2D and/or 3D engineered interfaces.
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Institute: Imperial College

Electrodes by design – microstructural engineering of high performance electrodes for solid oxide fuel cells

Prof. Nigel Brandon

The electrode, and the electrolyte-electrode interface, play a critical role in the performance of all cells. In Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) the microstructures of the porous composite anode and cathode are particularly critical, as they determine the electrochemical, electrical, mechanical and transport properties of the electrode, and of current distribution to/from the electrode/electrolyte interface.

Current state of the art SOFC electrodes rely on a largely empirical understanding to establish the electrode microstructure. Our prior work has established a new suite of tools and techniques that offer the prospect of moving towards a design-led approach to manufacture of improved electrodes, based on our ability to image, model, simulate and fabricate new electrode structures with controlled properties.

This proposal seeks to develop and further demonstrate our analysis and modelling tools; using design optimum structures fabricated with three novel processing techniques established by the academic team, and then measuring device performance to feedback into the design process.

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Institute: UCL

Fuel Cell technologies for an ammonia economy

Dr Dan Brett (UCL)

The main aim of this proposal is to offer a viable, competitive alternative to current PEM fuel cells and their hydrogen provision. Specifically, to increase the fuel flexibility of low-temperature polymer electrolyte fuel cells through developing a state-of-the art anion membrane alkaline fuel cell, using hydrogen obtained from ammonia as the fuel source.


Institute: Imperial College

Novel diagnostic tools and techniques for monitoring and control of SOFC stacks – understanding mechanical and structural change

Prof. Nigel Brandon

This proposal seeks to develop two novel diagnostic techniques, pioneered by UK researchers, and apply them to advanced cell testing and characterisation in conjunction with partners in South Korea. The measurements are used to validate models developed in the UK to relate the measured data to degradation and failure modes, transferring this to South Korean partners to offer the potential for real time monitoring and control of SOFC stacks.

This will give valuable understanding required to refine and develop the next generation of SOFC systems in the most time efficient manner, and have wider impact on UK and other international developers. The programme will also support an exchange of researchers between the UK and South Korea.


Institute: Imperial College

Innovative concepts from electrodes to stacks

Prof. Anthony Kucernak (Imperial College)

This project endeavors to develop new corrosion-resistant catalyst supports, and new techniques to catalyse those supports. To this end,

  • Porous bipolar plates will be developed and integrated along with the catalysts within a fuel cell.
  • The materials will be tested to assess their performance and longevity.
  • X-ray tomography and other imaging techniques will be used to assess the performance of the materials under real operating conditions.
  • Information from these tests will enable the development of a methodological framework to simulate the performance of the fuel cells. This framework will then be used to build more efficient control strategies for higher performance fuel cell systems.

Full details on this project can be found here.

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Institute: UCL

Reducing the cost and prolonging the durability of hydrogen fuel cell systems by in-situ hydrogen purification and technology hybridization (HyFCap)

Prof Xiao Guo

The aim of this project is to develop a low-cost and durable power system by integrating hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors with in-situ gas purification. To this end,

  1. High surface area porous graphenes/MOFs/carbons based sorbents/membranes have been developed and assessed the H2/CO2/CH4 selectivity by means of single component absorption tests at room temperature.
  2. The pore structure of MOFs and its derived carbons have been optimised. The absorptive uptake tests show giant enhancement in the binding of highly polarizable molecules such as CO2 over H2.
  3. A purification system that consists of both high resolution mass spectroscopy as well as high sensitivity gas chromatography has been designed for membrane based H2 purification tests.
  4. An early hypothetical propulsion system has been constructed.
  5. Three iterations of bus road data have been collected and verified.

Clean transport is essential to reduce both CO2 and pollutant emissions in an increasingly populated urban environment. The proposed development can quicken the steps of de-carbonisation and de-pollution of the urban environment.



Institute: Warwick

Flame Solid Oxide Fuel Cells, Simple Devices to Extract Electricity Directly from Natural Gas and Liquid Petroleum Gas Flames

Prof. Shanwen Tao

The aim of this proposal is to demonstrate the capacity of direct flame solid oxide fuel cells (DFFCs) to extract electricity directly from natural gas and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) flames. We will demonstrate DFFCs which can be directly put in the flame of a burner/cooker to generate electricity with the application of advanced materials.

The novelty of these DFFCs lies in optimising the flame positioning and the use of a redox stable cathode to improve the durability during redox and thermal cycling. Sealing is not required and DFFCs are relatively safe.

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Institute: Nottingham

Engineering safe and efficient hydride-based technologies

Prof David Grant

The aim of the project is to investigate and optimise metal hydride based technologies that are extremely compact but also have a high level of safety. A modular design will be adopted, where a module is sized for the smallest application (i.e. daily top-up for a commuter vehicle) capable of scale up.

The objective is to get 1) a MH store with a tank capacity up to 60 g(H2) L-1 exploring container to the bed formulation, heat transfer and recovery mechanisms, economically viable store materials, container and fabrication methods, to demonstrate mass deployment feasibility and 2) a MH cascade for compressing hydrogen from 10 to 350 bars.

It is anticipated that when the prototype compressor is completed it will be used in the University of Nottingham’s Energy Technologies Building as a demonstrator for wider acceptance of hydrogen technology for academic and public visitors.

For an extensive presentation on the project’s current progress, click here.


Institute: Ulster

Integrated safety strategies for on-board hydrogen storage systems

Dr Dmitriy Makarov

This project aims to develop novel safety strategies and engineering solutions for on-board hydrogen storage. It will do this through,

  1. critical analysis of current safety strategies and engineering solutions,
  2. CFD and FEM study,
  3. experimental studies of fire resistance for prototype designs,
  4. evaluation of the mass flow-rate reduction achievable with increased fire resistance of the tank,
  5. the development of novel liner materials and engineering solutions for safe storage.

The increased fire resistance rating of hydrogen storage tanks will allow industry to decrease the exit diameter of pressure relief devices, thus reducing destructive pressure peaking phenomenon, and deterministic separation distances.

So far the project has experimentally confirmed a major increase in the fire resistance of an on-board 700 bar hydrogen storage tank, from 8 min to above 110 min.

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