Research Projects 

The Birmingham Centre for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research focuses on research and development, applications and demonstrations of the fuel cell and hydrogen systems and technologies. 

Stable and low cost manufactured bipolar plates for PEM Fuel Cells (STAMPEM) 
As part of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCHJU), Birmingham scientists are involved with a consortium of six partners who are developing more durable, longer lasting and low-temperature fuel cells. The STAMPEM project focuses on developing improved coatings for the bipolar plates, which are key to the functioning of low temperature PEFC’s.

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Steel Coatings for Reducing Degradation (SCORED 2:0)
Lifetime of high temperature (SOFC) fuel cells is limited by a number of degradation processes that will reduce the performance over time. One of these effects is the chromium release from the stainless steel plates supporting the fuel cells and the formation of corrosion scales on these plates. The SCORED project looks into how these processes can be subdued by applying protective layers to the steel plates. Led by Birmingham, seven project partners from the UK, Italy, Switzerland and Finland will identify materials and methods for coating that will allow in excess of ten years of operation of a fuel cell unit.

Mass Manufactured, Low Cost and Robust SOFC Stacks (MMLRC = SOFC)
Work is ongoing within the Centre, with a consortium of nine partners to look at how high temperature solid oxide fuel cell stacks can be made more durable. The project aims to improve SOFC fuel cell performance by refining the architecture of SOFC stacks to reduce thermal stresses. This is turn will lead to improvements in performance and reliability. In order to reduce the cost, Birmingham expertise are working on simplifying manufacture, further reducing both costs and defects through automated assembly.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Auxiliary Power Unit for Road-truck Installations (SAFARI)
Birmingham academics are working on, in collaboration with 6 other consortium partners) developing an auxiliary power unit for automotive installations. Designed to be installed into a truck, the auxiliary power unit will use liquefied natural gas as a fuel providing additional power for electrical ancillary items.

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Modelling Accelerated Ageing of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (MAAD – SOFC)
The Centre have advanced computing facilities for modelling the physical processes that take place within fuel cells. The EPSRC-DST project MAAD-SOFC aims to develop a new mathematical model to describe the degradation process seen in SOFC when fuelled with biogas. The long term aim is to develop new durable materials to incorporate into a stack. With our sophisticated laboratory facilities, these models can be compared against observed phenomena. We are investigating new sulphur and carbon tolerant anodes to improve the lifetime of SOFC’s when used with biogas.

Hydrogen Separation Membranes
Hydrogen produced from natural gas reformers and from biomass sources usually contains small amounts of impurity gases, such as carbon monoxide and sulphur. A polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) converts hydrogen and oxygen gases into electricity; however, even very small amounts of impurities can reduce the operating life of the fuel cell. The Hydrogen Materials group within the University are investigating how metallic diffusion membranes can be used to purify hydrogen with certain palladium based alloys that will allow only hydrogen gas to pass through (the impurity gas molecules are too large), resulting in parts-per-billion level pure hydrogen. These materials are currently expensive and delicate so Birmingham academics are investigating how the cost of these membranes can be reduced and robustness increased.

Small 4-Wheel Fuel Cell Passenger Vehicle Applications in Regional and Municipal Transport (SWARM)
The Centre is part of a group of 17 partners undertaking SWARM. The project aims to optimise and build 100 low cost fuel cell hybrid vehicles. Our expertise will be leveraged to optimise the components and vehicle’s systems resulting in improved efficiency. There are five industrial partners: Air Liquide, Microcab, Riversimple, H2O e-mobile and TUV. The project also aims to deploy the infrastructure to support this fleet of small, efficient vehicles. Two 200kg/day hydrogen refuelling stations are planned. This will support demonstration sites in North West Germany and in Brussels.

SWARM car

Hydrogen Canal Boat
Engineers at the University have developed a zero emissions canal boat, powered by an electric motor, polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) and metal hydride storage technology. The project, in collaboration with British Waterways, is used to demonstrate and raise awareness of the practical applications of hydrogen.

Hydrogen Canal Boat

Hydrogen Train
Currently, the energy to move trains is either provided by electricity that is provided via wayside infrastructure or through the combustion of diesel on-board the train. Electrification of railway lines requires large initial investment in infrastructure and is only economically viable on routes that have a high density of traffic. The railway industry is committed to increase the amount of electrified lines, which will mean that the number of electric trains will increase further. However, there will still be a requirement for autonomously powered trains which serve the non-electrified lines. A cross-disciplinary venture between a number of Birmingham Energy Institute academics and Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, developed, designed and constructed the UK’s first practical hydrogen-powered locomotive.  

Hydrogen Train

Other projects:

  • SUAV
  • TriSOFC
  • Marie-Currie :NECPEM
  • Electrical Performance of SOFC in Hydrocarbon Fuels
  • Adelan Ltd Projects - Solid Oxide Fuel Cells
  • Fuel cell systems integration
  • Electrochemistry and formulation of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

Grant applications:

We are presently in the process of applying for EPSRC and EU funding to investigate electric and fuel cell hybrid vehicles.