Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Hub Extension (H2FC SUPERGEN)

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Earth Science and Engineering


The H2FC sector is developing at a rapid pace around the world. In USA, Germany, S.Korea, and Japan, where the government has provided incentives or entered public-private partnerships, the uptake of FC technologies has been far greater than in the UK and is expected to grow, generating billions of dollars every year. In Asia, manufacturers will produce around 3,000 fuel cell cars in 2016 and around 50,000 fuel cell combined heat and power devices. Toyota alone expects to build 30,000 FC cars in 2020. Some hydrogen buses in London's fleet have operated for nearly 20,000 hours since 2011 and the city of Aberdeen runs Europe's largest hydrogen bus fleet, while individual stationary fuel cells have generated power for over 80,000 operating hours. The recently issued H2FC UK roadmap has identified key opportunities for the UK and areas in which H2FC technologies can have benefits.

The H2FC SUPERGEN Hub seeks to address a number of key issues facing the hydrogen and fuel cells sector, specifically: (i) to evaluate and demonstrate the role of hydrogen and fuel cell research in the UK energy landscape, and to link this to the wider landscape internationally, (ii) to identify, study and exploit the impact of hydrogen and fuel cells in low carbon energy systems, and (iii) to create a cohort of academics and industrialists who are appraised of each other's work and can confidently network together to solve research problems which are beyond their individual competencies. Such systems will include the use of H2FC technologies to manage intermittency with increased penetration of renewables, supporting the development of secure and affordable energy supplies for the future. Both low carbon transport (cars, buses, boats/ferries) and low carbon heating/power systems employing hydrogen and/or fuel cells have the potential to be important technologies in our future energy system, benefiting from their intrinsic high efficiency and their ability to use a wide range of low to zero carbon fuel stocks.

Planned Impact

Academic Impact: The Hub has already demonstrated significant academic impact through its core research in its first five years of operation (4 patents, 350 peer reviewed papers, 120 conference presentations), and this will be further extended by the additional research proposed here. All research in, and linked to, the Hub will continue to be disseminated internationally in the very highest quality and impact journals, and at national and international conferences, meetings and workshops. This will include the annual H2FC Hub Research Forum where all recipients of funding associated with the Hub (i.e. core funding, flexible funding and challenge projects) present their work, promoting research exchange and supporting dissemination to our Advisory Board. In order to ensure their professional development, our annual open conference has a particular focus on providing a platform for early career researchers (PhD students and postdocs) and academics to foster interaction with more experienced academics and industrialists. We will also engage with other SUPERGEN Hubs and major programmes where the hydrogen and fuel cell sector has relevance, detailed in the networking section of the case for support.

Industrial Impact: The key industry players across the hydrogen and fuel cell supply chain are working closely with us, and many sit on the H2FC Hub Advisory Board (AB). This ensures communication, relevance and impact of the Hub's research beyond its academic boundaries. Companies who are currently on our AB include those in hydrogen production and distribution (Air Products, ITM), PEFC development (Intelligent Energy), alkaline fuel cell development (AFC Energy), SOFC developers (Rolls Royce Fuel Cell Systems and Ceres Power), a global supplier of materials and catalysts for hydrogen production and conversion (Johnson Matthey), and a leading automotive technology company active in this sector (Ricardo). Several of the Hub investigators (e.g. Brandon, Kucernak) have extensive experience in the commercialisation of research in this area.

Policy Impact: H2FC members cover all constituent nations of the UK and all key regions. This together with the presence of representatives from BEIS, UKERC, HSE, RCUK (via EPSRC), Innovate UK and ETI on our Advisory Board, provide the ideal basis for effective use of the Hub's research to inform national and regional policy in the H2FC and related sectors. Our first white paper on the role of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in the delivery of low carbon heat has been very well received by a wide range of stakeholders, and a further three white papers will be delivered before the end of the current Hub. We have supported the development of the recently launched roadmap for hydrogen and fuel cells in the UK. We will continue to ensure that our work has relevance to policy makers by organising events dedicated to the dissemination of current state of the art in hydrogen, and in fuel cell, technology and research to key stakeholders in Government, both nationally and regionally.

Public and Social Impact: There is great public interest in energy and climate change, renewable energy in particular and, in our experience (all partners have given many public lectures on their research) in H2FC. We will continue to ensure that the public, who are our ultimate beneficiaries, are aware of and engaged with our work. We will build on our white papers, and experience in outreach to the broader community, to communicate important conclusions at public science events such as lectures at the Darwin Centre in London, and at other national, regional and local events and venues as appropriate, and via accessible online information and other resources on H2FC and related technologies.


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Brandon NP (2017) Clean energy and the hydrogen economy. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Chen Z (2017) Spherical indentation of bilayer ceramic structures: Dense layer on porous substrate in Journal of the European Ceramic Society

Description A number of white papers have been produced that have informed the policy debate around hydrogen in the UK. The team have contributed to a recent Royal Society report on green hydrogen, and are engaged with helping to develop the UK industry strategy in the area. The community have been engaged with a view to identifying options for a major UK programme in this field as the H2FC Supergen comes to an end in January 2021, and a proposal to this effect has been submitted to EPSRC for a UK Hydrogen Institute.
Sector Energy