Performance Optimization of IT-SOFCs by Inkjet Printing on Porous Metal Substrates (JETCELL)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Materials Science & Metallurgy


In this collaborative project our aim is to develop metal supported Intermediate temperature solid oxide fuel cells (IT-SOFC) by implementation of ink-jet printing technology in order to create the architecture of a fuel cell based on most up to date materials to achieve substantial progress on issues related to cost reduction, degradation processes, durability and reliability. The current SOFCs operate at nearly 1000C, at this high temperature material challenges are demanding leading to degradation and poor perfromance. Combined with relatively high costs, the number of SOFC shipments in 2009 are less than 1000! By targeting development at low temperatures and low cost methods using inkjet printing and introducing in-situ on board diagnosticd in an operating fuell cell, this consortium consisting of two research groups in University of Cambridge (Materials Chemistry and Electroceramics) from the UK and NFTDC in Hyderabad, and RTM Nagpur University from India, we intend to apply our research towards making fuel cell prototype. We have established close contacts with SMEs in both the UK and in India so that we can seek their advice, procure their expertise and technologies and involve them towards the end of the project with a view to transfer technology and accelerate deployment.
While India and UK may not be unique in this quest, there is a strong emphasis in both these countries towards "energy sustainability" and "environmental protection". Large scale application of fuel cells technology offer "clean and green power" system with scalable global business. Both India and the UK are striving to scientific and technological leadership in this area. Energy sustainability is key to economic prosperity in both countries and innovative approaches from collaboration between forward looking partners within a sound consortium stands a good chance of providing knowledge that can contribute to step-change in the UK-India relationship in this scientific field and beyond.
In a PhD project at Cambridge under the supervision of Dr Kumar, metal supported, tubular architecture single fuel cells and 10W and 50W demo stacks have been investigated in collaboration with HCl Ltd., which has fabricated, installed and demonstrated 2x1kW stacks in Thailand. In another ongoing PhD project under the joint supervision of Drs Glowacki and Kumar, planar fuel cell elements are being developed by using ink-jet printing of electrodes and electrolytes, including densification of electrolyte with novel sintering aids. Previously they have jointly developed protocols for making inks and sols for various coating processes.
Expertise in synthesis of electrodes and electrolytes are available with the teams in India and in the UK. At RTM Nagpur University, Professor Bhogha has developed novel oxide based cathode materials for intermediate temperature fuel cells operation. In a current PhD project under his supervision, preparation and characterization of Cu-cermets has been investigated as potential anode materials for IT-SOFC. The investigations on cathode and anode materials are focussed on development of novel materials to establish structure-property correlation, and evaluation
of basic electrochemical processes.
Dr Bala at NFTDC, has been in the forefront of synthesis and fabrication methods for ceramics, fine chemicals and nanomaterials, composites and hydrogen storage. NFTDC have a team of dedicated scientists and technologists with expertise in developing demonstrator units and prototypes in many high-tech areas. The NFTDC team has rendered complete working prototypes and also continued pilot production of many system level solutions such as high efficiency motors, aerospace components, pilot plants for speciality alloys, end to end solutions for bio medical components. In the energy sector, NFTDC is presently engaged in solar thermal technology demonstration platforms and in waste heat to vehicle cabin cooling products.

Planned Impact

Development of intermediate temperature fuel cell is compatible with the recent emphasis on the concept of dispersed power system in the UK and the growing need for providing dispersed power system particularly in remote area power supply in rural India but also for many urban applications. Additional synergy is also available from the emphasis in India towards rapid industrial industrial implementation spurred by industrial growth and the emphasis in the UK towards technology development in the knowledge economy.

The consortium will seek to sustain this collaboration by a number of means. We will apply for joint funding when opportunities arise and such opportunities for international collaboration between India and the UK are steadily growing. We will also approach research centres and industry in both the countries (or in a third country as appropriate) to find ways of exploiting our research findings and thus take the matter forward. Any opportunity for start-ups with the involvement of technology transfer offices in UCAM, RTMNU and NFTDC will be another option. Meetings will involve the "Cambridge Network" - Europe's leading high technology community, bringing together business, academia and venture capital with networking - and similar business networks in India. Support for IP development will be provided by Cambridge Enterprise, the University's successful vehicle to commercialize science and equivalent technology transfer offices in India. We will also, separately, apply for funding to agencies in respective countries to sustain the project activities started during this collaboration in follow-on activities.

The consortium members individually and jointly have contacts with research centres, professional bodies, and industry in both countries so that research output can be shared with other stakeholders for developing exploitation strategy of benefit to both the countries. Research involving interpersonal exchanges at the heart of the project will result in a "clean power system" with operating bases in the UK and in India but with scalable global business. While there is a broad overlap in the interest of all the partners for achieving novel solutions in fuel cell development, the experiences of the research groups are complementary thus providing the ideal synergy for collaboration to achieve the complete solution which each team will not be able to deliver separately. The four teams will learn new aspects in this research from the other and also have the opportunity to explore jointly industrial trials and exploitation strategy.

Further development in ink-jet technology for a range of electroceramic applications will be opened up. There is an excellent prospect for applications in sensors & actuators, photovoltaic cells, batteries and supercapacitors, functional ceramics and composites and nanomaterials.


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Description In this project we have made progress in selecting and optimising key materials for intermediate temperaure fuel cells and have produced device structures using inkjet printing. Current work is optimising a novel method for co-sintering the layers in the structure. Several new methodologies have been developed including infiltration, in-situ sintering and brazing for seals
Exploitation Route Demonstrate to stakeholders in 2016-17 A prototype is constructed in the near future. The full prototype has been designed and assembled in our partner location in NFTDC, Hyderabad. Further contacts have been made with University of St Andrews and Imperial College for carrying out a EPSRC funded project on the evolution of microstructures in the fuel cell materials during fabrication, use and after ageing. A new collaboration has been established with the Chemical Engineering Department, in University of Birmingham in order to start a higher TRL project.
Sectors Energy,Environment,Transport

Description Based on research data and development of fabrication by inkjet printing, a 1 kW prototype solid oxide fuel cell has been constructed in the partner institution in NFTDC, India. Contacts have been established both in the UK/EU and in India with other research and industrial groups for taking forward the project to application.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Energy,Environment,Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description EPSRC
Amount £1,330,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M014304/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2014 
End 03/2018
Description CO2 Sensor for Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) 
Organisation EMC
Country India 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution In collaboration with EMC Ltd and Vent-Axia Ltd, 2 new projects have been funded - one by Carbon Trust and the other by TSB in order to make low-cost CO2 sensors that can be used for DCV in buildings so that significant energy reduction can be achieved.
Start Year 2011
Description Fuel Cells Testing using inflitrated anodes 
Organisation Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Prepared anode filtrated fuel cells and tested them at Delft.
Collaborator Contribution Tested Cambridge Fuel Cells. Seconded a Delft student to Cambridge.
Impact Reports from Cambridge and Delft; Results from testing for a new paper in preparation; visit by PhD student to Delft to use fuel cells testing equipment.
Start Year 2015
Description RCUK-DST IT-SOFC Project 
Organisation Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University
Country India 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our research team provided inkjet printed anode and electrolyte to which RMT NU's cathode was incorporated. WE worked jointly to look at new type of cathode materials by joint work and by collaboration working separately.
Collaborator Contribution The partners focussed on making new cathodes and carried out initial characterization in RMT NU. They provided samples to Cambridge to incorporate into active cell structure and carry our further characterization work.
Impact Joint publications Joint papers in conferences Mutual visits for joint research Advances in electrode data
Start Year 2012
Description RCUK-DST Project on IT-SOFC 
Organisation NonFerrous Materials Technology Development Centre
Country India 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We made the key materials and their characterisation for the project and also introduced inkjet printing as an enabling process.
Collaborator Contribution NFTDC contributed by designing the SOFC stack, contributing to manufacturing methods that are novel
Impact Several joint publications Design and prototype fuel cell stack Several papers in conferences relating to fuel cells Discussions for future follow-on from this project
Start Year 2011
Description Solid Oxide Fuel Cells using methanol 
Organisation Imperial College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Preparation of Proposal for EPSRC
Collaborator Contribution Preparation of Proposal for EPSRC
Impact New concepts and new partnership with Johnson Matthey and Lucideon
Start Year 2015
Description Testing Fuel Cells 
Organisation University of Birmingham
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Helped with InkJet printing of Birmingham cells and tested Cambridge Fuel Cells in Birmingham
Collaborator Contribution Help with testing of the Fuel Cells
Impact A joint proposal to be submitted to EPSRC
Start Year 2017