Fuel Cells & Hydrogen

Research and development into applications for power, heat and transport

Fuel Cells and Hydrogen

In 2019, the UK Government legislated the level of the 2050 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target that commits the UK to reduce its GHG emissions by at least 100% compared to 1990 levels. Widespread use of hydrogen from renewable sources is key to achieve decarbonisation objectives.

There is growing interest in the use of hydrogen, not only for heat, but also as a vector to be used in transport. Developing cheap and efficient methods to use hydrogen from renewable sources is one of the bottleneck hurdles that must be overcome on the path to achieve a low carbon economy and industrial decarbonisation. An important component of this is developing commercially attractive fuel cells and viable hydrogen production and utilisation as a matter of urgency.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) are currently one of the best candidates to meet these demands. They are both energy and power-efficient, and fuel flexible. Although fuel cell lifetime is already reasonable in certain applications, such as laboratory tests, they are plagued by rather more rapid degradation in the high-current and high-temperature regimes that are common operating conditions in residential and industrial applications. Reduced durability is directly responsible for excessive consumer cost, so enhancing SOFC longevity is of extreme importance in succeeding a vigorous market not only for SOFC technology, but also for other types of fuel cells, electrolysers and batteries that are dealing with similar drawbacks.

Research and Development

We are investigating new applications for power, heat and transport. The Energy & Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University contributes to hydrogen and fuel cell research and development via:

  1. Green and renewable fuels including high-hydrogen syngas, through biomass gasification
  2. Application of renewable fuels such as syngas and biogas in fuel cells

At EBRI, we integrate hydrogen production processes and downstream applications such as fuel cells through:

  1. Experimental investigations on green hydrogen, renewable fuel, and novel catalysts, for fuel cell applications
  2. Integration of hydrogen production approaches with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
  3. Computational investigation on fuel cell multi-scale-multi-physics modelling, system integration, process control and optimisation.

Experimental approaches for hydrogen production via gasification are looking at optimising the biomass conversion process. For example, by enhancing the quality of the high-hydrogen syngas stream by using novel catalysts or integrating gasification with other processes such as Fischer-Tropsch or methanol conversion. These approaches are also looking at integrating Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies to effectively integrate hydrogen into the future green energy economy.

Our analytical solutions address many issues in fuel cell development and optimization, such as fuel cell system design and optimisation, in situ structural changes in solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), and catalyst efficiency. In particular, our instruments and analytical skills can measure and minimise fuel cell degradation. Evaluation of potential fuels, renewable ones in particular, for SOFC application is among the crucial analysis we can offer. Gasification and pyrolysis expertise and facilities at EBRI allow to well integrate fuel cell technology and renewable fuels. Critical parameters governing a fuel cell’s lifetime is the hydrogen purity in syngas.

Work with Us

With special attention to the commercialisation challenges, we closely collaborate with national and international industries and researchers to find timely solutions for hydrogen production processes integrated with CCS, and fuel cells processes at system scale. We exploit our state-of-the-art process and analytic facilities and deploy fast and smart computing facilities to provide the cutting-edge insights that will lead to green hydrogen production and uses in applications such as fuel cells. 

Our People

For further information contact Dr Amirpiran Amiri or call +44 (0) 121 204 3169.