Reducing the Cost and Prolonging the Durability of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Systems by in-situ Hydrogen Purification and Technology Hybridization (HyFCap)

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Chemistry


Hydrogen and fuel cells open the way to integrated "open energy systems" that simultaneously address all of the major energy and environmental challenges, and have the flexibility to adapt to the diverse and intermittent renewable energy sources that will be available in the Europe of 2030. HFCs offer a number of advantages for both smaller scale stationary power and transport systems, such as quiet operation, low self-discharge, high energy density and extended driving ranges. However, these are not yet economically competitive with other fuel systems such as open cycle gas turbines for balancing electrical grids, Li-based batteries for domestic storage nor high compression ratio diesel engines for transport. Two important contributions to the elevated costs of fuel cell systems are: 1) the capital cost of fuel cell power (kW-1); and 2) the cost of the high purity H2 needed to extend asset lifetime especially when the hydrogen is supplied by an on-board hydride tank.

This proposal will seek to address both problems by: 1) the hybridisation of fuel cells with supercapacitors, to reduce the demand (hence the capital cost) for fuel cell power capacity and increase power efficiency; and 2) the development of in-situ hydrogen purifiers by means of highly selective and high-permittivity solid-sorbent membranes, to increase the lifetime of the fuel cell. These two issues also represent two critical gaps /issues that have NOT been funded in the relevant SUPERGEN consortia (Hydrogen and Energy Storage) and the HFC Hub by the EPSRC.

Members of the consortium are with complementary expertise in supercapacitors, hydrogen store and purification, power engineering design and management, which will potentially lead to a complete integration of these area and help us to develop a novel design and optimum integration of hydrogen fuel-cell (HFC) and supercapacitor (SC) for an efficient, low-cost and low-carbon power system.

Planned Impact

The project has a strong industrial application focus. The developed low-cost hybrid hydrogen power system offers benefits of reduced CO2 emission, efficient clean power for transport, e.g. passenger cars, public buses, train auxiliary power in urban areas, and low emission shipping. More importantly, the development outcome should quicken the industrial adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technologies by reducing initial cost barriers both in terms of capital expenditure and lifetime performance. The wide use of clean hydrogen power technologies reduces direct CO2 emission, mitigating climate change, and reducing transport-related chemical and noise pollution, directly contributing to the wellbeing of mankind and the quality of life as a whole.


10 25 50
Description Effective hydrogen purification sorbents and membranes have been developed from specifically functionalised materials. New super capacitors based on optimised ionic liquid electrolytes provide high cell voltage and efficient capacitance. Hybrid power systems have been modelled and simulated, based on real-life hybrid-vehicle data and laboratory demonstration of different hybrid systems.
Exploitation Route Further collaboration with industrial developers on hybrid electric power in land vehicles etc...
Sectors Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Transport

Description Expert Advisor to Chinese Acadmy of Sciences
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact Advice on CAS strategic programmes and assessment of large consortium grant applications.
Description UK Representative and Sub-Programme Coordinator
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact UK Representative and Sub-Programme Coordinator of "Advanced Materials and Processes for Energy Applications" (AMPEA), the EU Energy Research Alliance (EERA), 2010-: Advising EU energy funding programmes and future development and implementations of Horizon 2020.
Description FP7-NMP-2012-SMALL-6
Amount € 4,884,982 (EUR)
Funding ID NMP3-SL-2012-309636 
Organisation European Union 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 12/2013 
End 12/2016
Description FP7-NMP-2013-SMALL-7
Amount € 4,726,360 (EUR)
Funding ID 604656 
Organisation European Union 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 02/2014 
End 01/2018
Description Intelligent Coatings for Energy-Efficient Glazing
Amount £435,724 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M003353/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 09/2017
Description Multi-scale Analysis for Facilities for Energy Storage
Amount £4,013,527 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N032888/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2016 
End 09/2020
Title Interactive Website Forum 
Description The Crucible website offers Crucible members a place to meet collaborators, share and discuss ideas and to post research ideas. The poster of research ideas has control of their idea and can open it to all members or close it to a select few. There is scope to chat to other members and to upload/download documents and discuss them. The website is open to all members of UCL but closed to others to allow an open space to raise ideas without having to worry about ideas being stolen by other research organisations. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2008 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact To date there are 700 Crucible members whom have posted and discuss over 90 research ideas. This has lead to 12 of the feasibility studies being funded by Crucible. The site is continually used by others as a place to visit to find collaborators or information on funding calls and conferences. The site has had over 17500 visits since its launch in 2009. 
Description PEARL in the community 
Organisation London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We provide the expertise on accessibility and scientific measurement of capabilities for urban design
Collaborator Contribution They provide contacts and involvement in a steering group, site for demonstrations and further research
Impact This is still underway. At the moment this has moved into site identification for a future engagement activity, relationship-building with New York City, Greater Manchester and others
Start Year 2017
Description Renewable energy and transport design in Xi'an 
Organisation Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide the modelling for estimation of impacts of modal shift
Collaborator Contribution They provide the renewable energy data related to domestic and industrial buildings
Impact None yet
Start Year 2017
Description Talk in Chile 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Distinguished inaugural lecture for the new MSC in city planning in the School of Architecture and Urbanism, Ponitificia Universidad Catolica Chile
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017