Design, Program, Evolve: Engineering efficient electrochemical devices for a net-zero world

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chem Eng and Analytical Science


Electro-chemical devices (fuel cells, electrolysers etc) are at the forefront of the drive to a 'net-zero world' with hydrogen as an important energy storage medium and fuel for the application of sustainably derived electricity. Even with the projected development of the energy system towards a largely fossil-fuel free system, CO2 separation will continue to be required for chemical processes. The work proposed builds on the collaboration between the Universities on Manchester, Newcastle and UCL which has flourished over the past five years, to develop more efficient and robust technologies to achieve a carbon negative industrial landscape.

The ability to operate fuel cells at higher temperatures without humidification means that the amount of equipment needed and hence cost is reduced. It also means that potentially cheaper catalysts can be used, and the purity of the fuel does not need to be rigorously controlled, all of which leads to cheaper and more efficient systems. The overlap between fuel cells and electrolysers is very significant as an electrolyser is simply a fuel cell in reverse; as such similar problems are manifest. In addition, an exciting electrochemical process for gas separation (CO2 removal) is under development, again with significant overlap in terms of developmental challenges.

This proposal builds a team of researchers with complimentary skills to tackle the challenges highlighted. The synergies between the very high-level characterisation expertise to examine the processes taking place in the systems, coupled with the electro-chemical developments which are on-going, mean that development and optimisation can take place quickly with understanding being shared to tackle the overlapping nature of the obstacles to implementation of these vital technologies.


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