Supergen Fuel Cell Consortium - Fuel cells - Powering a Greener Future - CORE

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Chemical Engineering & Advanced Material


Fuel Cells continue to receive considerable attention as clean, highly efficient devices for the production of both electricity and, for some applications, high grade waste heat. However, considerable technical challenges remain for fuel cell to achieve greater penetration into commercial markets. It is worth emphasising the shift in research landscape within which the Supergen fuel cell consortium is operating. As fuel cell technology continues to mature, the fuel cell research community is being asked to place increasing emphasis on improving its fundamental understanding of materials behaviour under realistic operating conditions and duty cycles, especially where this relates to failure modes, and materials/cell degradation. Thus the work programme of this second phase will very much focus on generic and fundamental research, targeted onto real problems identified in discussion with our industry partners. This means that during this second phase, it will remain the case that the Supergen consortium will put an emphasis on knowledge transfer to industry, though of course patents will be filed where appropriate. It is then largely the responsibility of the industry partners to exploit this knowledge in the context of their own technology programmeThe proposed second phase of the Supergen fuel cell consortium refreshes the membership, with three new academics; Kucernak (Imperial), Brett (UCL) and Elliott (Cambridge) and with four academic teams continuing; Brandon (Imperial), Scott (Newcastle), Atkinson (Imperial) and Irvine (St Andrews). All three industry partners remain within the consortium for its second phase; Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems, Ceres Power and Johnson Matthey, with the addition of a fourth new industry partner, Intelligent Energy. This new team maintains the consortium strength in Solid Oxide Fuel Cells, whilst adding significant extra capacity in Polymer Fuel Cells within both the industry and academic teams. This provides a shift in emphasis within the consortium to developing an improved understanding of failure modes and performance limitations within current fuel cell devices, and the need for greater scientific understanding to tackle these failure modes. In addition the consortium will continue to deliver its training courses in fuel cell science and engineering to consortium staff and students, external researchers to the consortium and to appropriate Doctoral Training Centres and to disseminate the work of the consortium (through publication and conference presentation, including an annual open conference) and to extend its international collaboration.


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Description The Supergen fuel cell consortium brought together four academic partners with three of the UKs' leading industry players, and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), to tackle some of the key research challenges underpinning the development of fuel cell technology, specifically in the areas of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) and solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) integrity, performance, durability and fuel flexibility. Fuel cell technology is now commercially available in a number of early markets, for example battery chargers, fork lift trucks, and scooters. And fuel cell technology is close to market in a number of mainstream applications, for example back up power supplies, and residential combined heat and power systems. Substantive technology demonstrations are also taking place in the transport sector, including both fuel cell powered cars and buses. All of this is contributing to an improved understanding of the types of failure modes and performance limitations within current fuel cell devices, and highlighting the need for greater scientific understanding to address these failure modes.

The research needs of the fuel cell industry therefore shifted from a focus which, emphasised new fuel cell designs and materials, to a research focus on developing an improved understanding of the behaviour and performance of those fuel cell materials now going into commercial operation. Thus, as the technology is maturing, the fuel cell research community needs to place increasing emphasis on improving its fundamental understanding of materials behaviour under realistic operating conditions and duty cycles, especially where this relates to failure modes, and materials/cell degradation. As such, the Supergen fuel cell consortium was well placed to meet this need, operating as it does with close ties between industry and academic partners. The consortium focussed on essentially generic and fundamental research, but targeted onto real problems identified in discussion with our industry partners.
Exploitation Route The transition in the research fuel cell landscape has been reflected in the changing emphasis of the consortium over the course of its first phase. Early work in the consortium emphasised areas such as novel cell processing, nano-particle fabrication, high temperature MEA development, and new SOFC anode and materials, alongside some novel experimental and theoretical developments in the fields of SOFC electrolyte sintering and electrode characterisation.
The outcome of the SUPERGEN consortium have been taken forward via:
• >£1.5M of new research funding has been received from industry partners to extend the work of the consortium.
• 31 peer reviewed papers and 37 conference presentations have been delivered by the consortium.
• The consortium worked in collaboration with the SHEC Supergen consortium to deliver the Foresight report on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells for the UK Government (
• Development of methods which allow us, for the first time, to measure stress during the constrained sintering of a ceramic film. This has relevance to all applications involving thick film ceramics processing. Ceres Power are now applying this methodology to the study of technologically relevant SOFC electrolyte processing.
• We have identified that the impact of sulphur on nickel anodes in SOFCs will vary within a stack, depending on local temperature and gas atmospheres, and we have proposed operating strategies which could help mitigate sulphur impact for collaborating industries Rolls Royce Fuel cells (RRFCS).
• Our work on the ceramic mechanical reliability assessment (CARES) methodology for failure prediction been applied to selected SOFC components, and successfully transferred this to RRFCS. RRFCS have tested adopted this approach for failure prediction of RRFCS ceramic support tubes in large multi-kW stack tests.
• A new approach for the preparation of SOFC anodes for direct hydrocarbon oxidation has been developed in collaboration with Univ. Pennsylvania. This has demonstrated good performance for the direct oxidation of methane.
• We have optimised a novel anode material (LSCM) and have worked with RRFCS to successfully integrate this material into the RRFCS cell design.
• New methods and models for SOFC electrode characterisation have been developed, allowing the quantification of percolated triple phase boundary lengths within composite electrodes.
• Two open events have been held to disseminate consortium outputs.
• A dedicated training course has been developed and made available to all research staff and students within the consortium. The course addresses the policy drivers behind fuel cells, the technology of both PEMFCs and SOFCs, as well as commercialisation issues.
• A school on high temperature fuel cells for PhD students was held at Newcastle Univ. in March 2008.
• The consortium organised a COST 543 workshop and provides the Vice-chair of this action on bio-ethanol in fuel cells.
Sectors Energy

Description Research from the programme was taken up by a number of industry partners, including Ceres Power, Rolls Royce, Johnson Matthey and Intelligent Energy. This has enhanced the ability of these companies to develop a strong technology base, and all continue to be successful in developing fuel cell technology, working with UK and international partners.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Energy
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Title Data File For Paper "The Intriguing Poison Tolerance Of Non-Precious Metal Oxygen Reduction Reaction (Orr) Catalysts" Doi: 10.1039/C5Ta05794A 
Description Data file containing data for figures and supplemental information for the paper The intriguing poison tolerance of non-precious metal oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalysts D. Malko, T. Lopes, E. Symianakis and A. R. Kucernak published in Journal of Materials Chemistry A, 2015 DOI: 10.1039/C5TA05794A 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes