"Mind the Gap" - jumping the hurdles limiting polymer fuel cell performance and commercialisation

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Chemistry

Abstract

In this proposal we are bringing together a number of individuals and institutions with a varied and complimentary skill set appropriate for the proposed work. All members of the team have an extensive and world-class background in fuel cell research and development, and the institutions which they work are well provisioned to undertake this work. Furthermore we are supported by a number of Institutions and companies.

The project is based around four research work packages and one coordinating work package.

* Operation of fuel cells on "dirty" fuels
Fuel cells typically require high quality hydrogen to prevent the poisoning of catalysts and membranes. This not only increases the cost of fuels, but limits the possible sources that can be used unless extensive clean-up methods are used. We intend to study the poisoning mechanism and poison content of fuels/air; develop catalysts with improved poison resistance. The goal is improvement in operation of fuel cells on typically available fuels in the near term, and use of "dirtier fuels" (biogenic sources) in the longer term.

* Reduction of the cost of fuel cells
Catalyst costs are one of the major components of fuel cell system cost (~25-30% of total). We intend to look at reduced platinum loading systems and how these systems interact with poor quality fuel/air. In the short term the desire is to reduce the cost and catalyst requirements. Over the longer term there is the desire to transition to new catalysts. Hence, we will also look at the development of new non-precious metal (or reduced precious metal) catalysts and the integration of these catalysts with new catalyst supports.

* Improvement in fuel cell longevity
Fuel cell longevity is a function of catalyst degradation and extreme conditions occurring during start-up/shut down and other extraneous events. Within this work package we will examine diagnostics to interrogate and understand the degradation processes and the development of improved catalyst supports and catalysts to resist degradation.

* Improving fuel cell systems efficiency
Improving fuel cell efficiency is associated with diagnosing the bottlenecks and those areas where the majority of losses are occurring. We will facilitate this process by developing and applying a range of in-cell and in-stack approaches to understand where those efficiency losses are occurring. At the same time we will examine the development of fuel cell balance of plant components to improve system efficiency. These approaches will be coupled with system modeling to assess the best areas to achieve performance gains.

Planned Impact

A successful result for this project could result in Intellectual Property generation which may be licensed to a company (e.g. Intelligent Energy) or may allow formation of a spin-out company (and thus including the potential for creation of new jobs).

On a broader scale, development of fuel cell technology will reduce global CO2 emissions, improve air quality, contribute to UK energy security and have an enabling role in the move towards a low carbon economy. This project is aimed at improving the commercialisation opportunities for polymer electrolyte fuel cell systems. We have as prime collaborators two UK fuel cell companies, and the National Physical Laboratory, NPL. The first company is Intelligent Energy, a UK company a leading UK based PEFC company employing over 150 people. They focus on proprietary fuel cell and hydrogen generation technology platforms, and are embarking on a major programme of providing fuel cell backup power systems for mobile phone telecoms station in India and have an office in Mumbai, India. The second UK company is BAC2, a company producing best-in-class bipolar- and end- plates PEFCs, DMFCs, alkali and PAFC stacks utilising "ElectroPhen", a plastic that's a billion times more electrically conductive than other polymers or resins. NPL assists UK industry in developing more efficient and cost-effective fuel cells. They provide in-situ techniques for measurement of temperature and gas composition, modelling of fuel cell systems, assessment of fuel cell durability and the study of catalytic processes on the micro- to nano-scale. All three bodies see this as being an important project for them to be part of and have supplied generous support in terms of manpower, equipment and knowledge and expertise.

A significant part of this project is associated with the cross-border development of research ties between UK and India, and there may be further societal benefits to this work. This research may be viewed as a "pump-priming" process which will allow the development of further research ties between UK and India. Certainly the involvement of scientists from the UK visiting India and Indian academics visiting the UK may allow the development of new research areas and topics which go on to produce further benefits to the UK.

Commercial exploitation of results will be managed by the appropriate technical transfer organisation of all institutions. We will use the UK Fuel Cell Supergen model for this as our basis.

There are a range of societal impacts which may result from the efficient commercialisation of this research, which would accelerate deployment of electric vehicles and stationary fuel cell systems due to improved energy densities and energy efficiencies. This will decrease CO2 emissions, aiding the UK to achieve its CO2 reduction targets, and decrease atmospheric contaminants in urban environments.
The programme will provide progression and the ability to interact with Indian/UK collaborators in this important field for six junior researchers, and an excellent educational programme for all members of the project and those in the Fuel Cell SuperGen.

Publications

10 25 50

 
Description We have made many diverse findings. These include:
a) New ways to regenerate (clean) fuel cells that have been exposed to environmental pollutants;
b) new catalysts which perform as well as current catalysts but which are less expensive;
c) New support materials which are more resilient and longer lived;
d) Information about the way a fuel cell expands and contracts due to water uptake.
Exploitation Route Our results are being used by our industrial project partners in developing new fuel cells and modifying there systems to operate in new environments.
Sectors Chemicals,Energy

 
Description This proposal is not completed yet. Findings have been presented at a number of conferences and was also used at a stand in the RCUK celebrations in India in November 2013. At this event a stand with representatives from the project were present to discuss and publicise the technology.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Chemicals,Energy
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description ICASE studentship
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation Johnson Matthey 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 09/2020
 
Description MEMPHYS
Amount € 2,088,195 (EUR)
Funding ID 735533 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2019
 
Description Symbiotic
Amount € 3,000,000 (EUR)
Funding ID http://symbiotic-project.eu/project/ 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 01/2016 
End 11/2018
 
Description crescendo
Amount € 2,739,602 (EUR)
Funding ID http://www.crescendo-fuelcell.eu 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2020
 
Description Collaboration with Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Supergen 
Organisation Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Supergen
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution H2FC is the hydrogen and fuel cell supergen. We have presented results at H2FC conferences and as Kucernak is a theme leader the results have been used to set the direction of future research
Collaborator Contribution Allow research to be seen by wider audience.
Impact Presentation of results at H2FC conferences
Start Year 2010
 
Title FUEL CELL COMPRISING AT LEAST TWO STACKED PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARDS WITH A PLURALITY OF INTERCONNECTED FUEL CELL UNITS 
Description A fuel cell comprising at least two stacked fuel cell boards (22) which each comprise a membrane of substantially gas impervious electrolyte material and at least two electrode pairs wherein the anode and cathode of each said electrode pair are arranged on respective faces of said membrane. An electrode of each pair of electrodes is connected to an electrode of an adjacent pair of electrodes by a through-membrane connection (13) or by an external connection on a Printed Circuit Board, comprising an electrically conductive region of said electrolyte material. A method for forming the through-membrane electrical connections in the electrolyte membrane is also disclosed. 
IP Reference CA2828460 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2012
Licensed Yes
Impact Fuel Cell company now using this patent to make fuel cells
 
Title FUEL CELL COMPRISING AT LEAST TWO STACKED PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARDS WITH A PLURALITY OF INTERCONNECTED FUEL CELL UNITS 
Description Method of producing fuel cells in a low cost manner 
IP Reference WO2012117035 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2014
Licensed Yes
Impact Patent being used by company to manufacture systems
 
Title Fuel Cell Comprising at Least Two Stacked Printed Circuit Boards with a Plurality of Interconnected Fuel Cell Units 
Description A fuel cell comprising at least two stacked fuel cell boards (22) which each comprise a membrane of substantially gas impervious electrolyte material and at least two electrode pairs wherein the anode and cathode of each said electrode pair are arranged on respective faces of said membrane. An electrode of each pair of electrodes is connected to an electrode of an adjacent pair of electrodes by a through-membrane connection (13) or by an external connection on a Printed Circuit Board, comprising an electrically conductive region of said electrolyte material. A method for forming the through-membrane electrical connections in the electrolyte membrane is also disclosed. 
IP Reference US2014154604 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2014
Licensed Yes
Impact used by company to produce fuel cells
 
Title Fuel cell 
Description A fuel cell assembly is disclosed comprising a fuel cell electrode component and a reactant gas flow component ink bonded thereto. In one aspect direct bonding of a gas diffusion layer with a flow field is achieved allowing a simplified structural configuration. In another aspect improved component printing techniques reduce corrosion effects. In a further aspect flow fields are described providing reactant channels extending in both the horizontal and vertical directions, i.e. providing three dimensional flow. In a further aspect an improved wicking material allows wicking away and reactant humidification. In a further aspect improved mechanical fastenings and connectors are provided. In a further aspect improved humidification approaches are described. Further improved aspects are additionally disclosed. 
IP Reference CN104488125 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2015
Licensed Yes
Impact Patent being used by company to manufacture systems
 
Title Fuel cell comprising at least two stacked printed circuit boards with a plurality of interconnected fuel cell units 
Description A fuel cell comprising at least two stacked fuel cell boards (22) which each comprise a membrane of substantially gas impervious electrolyte material and at least two electrode pairs wherein the anode and cathode of each said electrode pair are arranged on respective faces of said membrane. An electrode of each pair of electrodes is connected to an electrode of an adjacent pair of electrodes by a through-membrane connection (13) or by an external connection on a printed circuit board, comprising an electrically conductive region of said electrolyte material. A method for forming the through-membrane electrical connections in the electrolyte membrane is also disclosed. 
IP Reference CN103620842 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2014
Licensed Yes
Impact patent used to produce fuel cells by company
 
Title OXYGEN REDUCTION CATALYSTS 
Description The present invention relates to a method for preparing a catalyst which can be used to catalyse the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). The invention also provides a catalyst obtained from the method and its use as an electrode, for example, in a galvanic cell, an electrolytic cell or an oxygen sensor. 
IP Reference WO2015049318 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2015
Licensed Yes
Impact Used to manufacture catalysts and spawned other research
 
Description Royal Society/Chinese Academy of Sciences policy dialogue on energy storage at Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, China 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The Royal Society and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) are acting
as conveners to bring together key industrialists and academics to understand both the national
and international technical and policy challenges facing the energy storage sector. The objectives
of the dialogue are to be able to inform policy agendas and to create a growing group of UK-
China experts who understand the wider policy environment and can take advantage of the
opportunities as they develop.

The dialogue will take place over two days (16th and 17th January 2019) at the Dalian Institute of
Chemical Physics, Dalian, China. The UK delegation will number around 15 academics and
industrialists with a total of around 30 people attending.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description 'Managing Impurities in H2 Workshop' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The output from this workshop will be a document used to scope a proposal for a dedicated study looking at managing impurities in hydrogen across the supply chain, for different end-use applications. For further information on the objectives of this workshop please see the Eventbrite page here! The programme, with a list of questions for the discussion groups is below.




Discussion Groups:

1) H2 production,

2) H2 solid state storage,

3) H2 storage in caverns and transport (gas grid and other)

4) Applications/end-use technologies (fuel cells - stationery and vehicle) and combustion appliances




Programme/Questions:

10:00 - 10:30 Registration - Coffee/Tea

10:30 - 11:00 Introduction and Presentations (NPL & H2FC Hub)




11:00 - 11:40 Group Discussions:

Q1) Groups 1-3: What are the main impurities and challenges in each (group) area - where do the impurities come from?

Q1) For Group 4: What are the purity requirements for appliances/fuel cells? Comments on exiting and required standards?

Q2) All Groups: Existing work and technologies:

- What are options for removal/filtration?

- What are the challenges with the technologies investigated?

- Are there any mitigation options to minimise impact of impurities on end use applications?

- Note: Please note cost considerations of each options.

11:40-12:10 Group Feedback

12:10 -13:10 Lunch

13:10-13:40 Group Discussion:

Q3) How to link-up the supply chain (stakeholders) for further work.

- What research remains to be done?

- What work activity is needed across the supply chain to further investigate impurities and filtration technologies?

- Who in the room (or outside) can help with this?

- Suggestions for funding opportunities?

13:40 - 14:10 Group Feedback

14:10 - 14:30 Conclusions

14:30 - 15:30 NPL Impurities Lab Tour (optional)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description BEIS EINA Workshop: Hydrogen & Fuel Cell 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact On behalf of BEIS, Vivid Economics/Carbon Trust/E4Tech invite you to a workshop to inform innovation spending priorities for the Hydrogen & Fuel Cell sector on 13th February 2019


The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is looking at the future of innovation spending across all areas of energy. A structured Energy Innovation Needs Assessment (EINA) process has been developed to gather evidence and analyse the role of selected technologies in the UK's future energy system. This will inform where innovation support and investment could deliver the greatest benefits, informing spending priorities. Vivid Economics, Carbon Trust, and E4Tech have been contracted by BEIS to carry out this work.

Following whole energy system modelling by the Energy Systems Catapult using the energy system modelling environment (ESME) model, we have identified key technologies considered most important for energy system value. Your experience in the Hydrogen & Fuel Cell sector will help us to validate a suggested set of innovations, prioritise these in terms of importance for the UK energy system and identify how to unlock the opportunities presented by each technology. We will take account of other key documents that have been published in this area.

Here is the agenda for a workshop, which will be held in two parts:
10.00-12.30 Technologies. Discuss a suggested table of key innovations and a table focused on cost outlooks, which will be provided for your review before the workshop (these are provided a few days prior to the workshop).
[Lunch 12.30-1.00]
1.00-3.30 Business and policy opportunities. Your experience in the sector will help us to identify domestic and international business opportunities and identify barriers to unlocking them.

We are inviting 15-20 Hydrogen & Fuel Cell experts from academia, industry, and governmental organisations. The workshop will be held at Broadway House, Council Chamber, Tothill St, Westminster, London SW1H 9NQ, on 13th February 2019. With your expertise, we expect that you would be most suited to attending both sessions, but please let us know if you feel otherwise.

We hope that the importance of BEIS's goal will enable you to prioritise attendance. I would be grateful if you could please confirm attendance by 18th January 2019 and in line with GDPR requirements, please confirm that you consent to us to sharing your name and email address with BEIS and our consortium partners (Vivid Economic, Carbon Trust) solely for the purposes of this project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Pint of Science: Fuels of the future 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Pint of Science event at
Events at Draft House Westbridge
74-76 Battersea Bridge Rd, London, SW11 3AG
on 14 May 2018


7.00pm: Welcome and Introduction

7.15pm: Professor Anthony Kucernak: Hydrogen: Its Time Has Come
7.40pm: Q and A with Prof. Kucernak (prizes for questions!)
7.55pm: Interval and Quiz (your chance to win some prizes!)
8.25pm: Dr. Andreas Kafizas: Can Water Fuel Our Future?
8.50pm: Demo + Q and A session with Dr. Kafizas
9.05pm: Thank you and gift/prize giving
9.15pm: Close

To sum up, we would need from you:
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://pintofscience.co.uk/event/fuels-of-the-future
 
Description Renewable Fuel Generation and Energy Storage 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Renewable Fuel Generation and Energy Storage Symposium
2nd November 2018
Molecular Sciences Research Hub, White City Campus, Imperial College London
PROGRAMME
09:00 - 09:30 Arrival and light breakfast
09:30 - 09:40 Introductory remarks: Dr. Andreas Kafizas
MATERIALS Chair: Dr. Franky Bedoya
09:40 - 10:10 Life beyond titania: new materials for solar fuel generation
Prof. Aron Walsh, Department of Materials
10:10 - 10:40 MOF-based composites as bifunctional materials for CO2 capture and photoconversion
Dr. Camille Petit, Department of Chemical Engineering
10:40 - 11:00 Coffee & Poster session
11:00 - 11:30 Photoelectrocatalytic properties of atomically thin transition metal dichalcogenides
Dr. Cecilia Mattevi, Department of Materials
11:30 - 12:00 Lead-acid batteries recycling for the 21st Century
Dr. David Payne, Department of Materials
12:00 - 13:00 Lunch & Poster session
TECHNIQUES AND FUNDAMENTALS Chair: Dr. Anna Hankin
13:00 - 13:30 Measuring the intrinsic catalytic performance of catalysts for fuel cells and electrolysers
Prof. Anthony Kucernak, Department of Chemistry
13:30 - 14:00 Towards a parameter-free theory for electrochemical phenomena at the nanoscale
Dr. Clotilde Cucinotta, Department of Chemistry
14:00 - 14:30 Transient spectroscopic studies of approaches to artificial photosynthesis
Prof. James Durrant, Department of Chemistry
14:30 - 15:00 In-situ ultrafast methods for solar fuels: Can we push efficiencies?
Dr. Ernest Pastor, Department of Chemistry
15:00 - 15:20 Coffee & Poster session
DEVICES AND IMPLEMENTATION Chair: Dr. Ernest Pastor
15:20 - 15:50 Upscaling battery technology: From material science to pack engineering
Dr. Billy Wu, Dyson School of Design Engineering
15:50 - 16:20 Electrochemical synthesis of fuels and valuable chemicals: from fundamental catalysis studies to real devices
Dr. Ifan Stephens, Department of Materials
16:20 - 16:50 (Photo-)electrochemical reactors for energy conversion and storage
Prof. Geoff Kelsall, Department of Chemical Engineering
16:50 - 17:20 Renewable gas from offshore wind and offshore electrolysers
Dr. Malte Jansen, Centre for Environmental Policy
PANEL DISUSSION Chair: Prof. Geoff Kelsall
17:20 - 18:00 Question for the panellists: Learning from the presentations today, what disruptive technologies and collaborative projects would you like to see at ICL?
Panellists: Prof. James Durrant (Chemistry), Prof. Richard Templer (Chemistry & Grantham Institute), Dr. Judith Cherni (Centre for Environmental Policy) and Dr. Sam Coper (Dyson School of Design Engineering).
18:00 - 18:10 Closing remarks and prize-giving: Dr. Andreas Kafizas
18:10 - Late Wine and mingling
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description The Hydrogen Economy in The Future Energy Landscape 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The hydrogen economy is steadily gaining increasing importance as a realistic and affordable option in the context of the de-carbonisation challenge that the UK and other countries have set themselves to for the next few decades.



To explore this subject, we are delighted to invite you to a workshop taking place in November to explore what a possible hydrogen economy landscape may look like in the UK in 2035, what the implications may be for the various actors within the energy system, and what decisions may be required to translate that vision into a realistic plan.



Building on the scenario described in the Arup publication " Energy systems: A view from 2035", this workshop is part of Arup's thought leadership initiatives to explore the future of energy in the upcoming decades. It will be a unique opportunity to come together with colleagues and peers across government, to consider the commercial models, regulatory framework and policy decision required to develop and implement a potential future hydrogen economy.



This workshop is the second of a series where we will be exploring the challenges and opportunities of the hydrogen economy with experts across the industry:

Workshop - Hydrogen economy: industry stakeholders

(28th November 2018 - Breakfast served from 8.45 for a 9.00 start. Close at 3.30)

Breakfast event: Hydrogen economy: route map review with government and industry representatives

(12th December 2018)

Each event will be facilitated by our subject matter experts, who can leverage Arup's understanding of the hydrogen economy, of the regulatory framework and commercial models, as well as of the broader hydrogen stakeholders' community.



They will be highly interactive sessions, which will challenge common assumptions and will encourage attendees to consider the hydrogen economy on its multiple aspects and from different perspectives - each stakeholder for example will be asked to 'role-play' different actors in the system.



In each session we will be producing a route map to a possible hydrogen economy system in the UK, which will then be reviewed and tested during the breakfast event in December 2018, with representatives from government and the industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019