Fuel Cells

The following are some of the projects that we can offer:

apply online


Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technology

Supervisor: Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, Professor Lin Ma, Professor Derek Ingham and Dr Kevin Hughes

Fuel cells have been considered as one of the promising technologies for the next generation energy production systems, because of their high energy efficiency and low pollutant emission. However, fuel cell technology is still in its early stage of development. Many scientifically challenging problems have to be solved in order to make it cost effective and thus commercially viable. In this project, an experimental investigation into the performance of different designs of Polymer Electrolyte Membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) will be undertaken; this will involve the manufacture and testing of different PEMFC designs, along with the manufacture and testing of novel non-metal based catalysts to replace the use of Platinum, a major cost component of current PEMFCs.

For further information please contact Professor Derek B Ingham

Back to the top

Molecular modelling and experimental Investigation of the oxygen reduction reaction in PEM fuel cells.

Supervisor: Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, Professor Lin Ma, Professor Derek Ingham and Dr Kevin Hughes

Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cells are of great promise for future energy production systems, encompassing large scale down to portable power source applications, with the promise of high efficiency and minimal pollutant emission. A major drawback is the cost of production, dominated by the quantity of an expensive platinum catalyst required for the oxygen reduction reaction. Recent research indicates promising replacement catalysts based on non-metal carbon compounds doped with a variety of elements (for example nitrogen, sulphur, selenium). This project will involve the use of the Gaussian 09 program to perform detailed electronic structure modelling of candidate systems to assess their efficacy and investigate the detailed mechanism of these oxygen reduction reactions. In addition, we will synthesise promising candidates and test their performance in our experimental fuel cell test facilities, where we have the equipment to manufacture and test our own PEM fuel cells.

For further information please contact Professor Derek B Ingham

Back to the top

Improvement of the efficiency of PEM fuel cells through the use of appropriate sealing means

Supervisor: Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, Professor Lin Ma, Professor Derek Ingham and Dr Kevin Hughes

Fuel cells are very strong competitors to the conventional energy conversion technologies which are responsible for the emission of the greenhouse gases. The most prominent type of fuel cells are proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. PEM fuel cells must be well-sealed in order to perform reliably and prevent the leakage of hydrogen. Typically, gaskets are used to seal the PEM fuel cells, though they must be selected with great care. The selection of the inappropriate sealing gasket may lead to a serious decline in the performance of the fuel cell. In most cases, this is due to the poor electrical contact between the electrodes and the current collectors of the fuel cell. One of the main objectives of this project is to theoretically and experimentally optimise the parameters that affect the contact between the electrode and the current collector in PEM fuel cells, most importantly the thickness and the stiffness of both the electrode and sealing gasket.

For further information please contact Professor Derek B Ingham

Back to the top

Novel gas diffusion layers and catalyst supports for proton exchange membrane fuel cells

Supervisor: Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, Professor Lin Ma, Professor Derek Ingham and Dr Kevin Hughes

Fuel cells have been considered as one of the promising technologies for the next generation energy production systems, because of their high energy efficiency and low pollutant emission. However, fuel cell technology is still in its early stage of development. Many scientifically challenging problems have to be solved in order to make them cost effective and thus commercially viable. In this project, novel designs of gas diffusion layer and catalyst support will be investigated. This will involve the synthesis and characterisation of novel mesoporous materials with highly ordered structures and high surface area and pore volume. These have potential in terms of improved electrical conductivity and catalyst support over conventional carbon fibre based gas diffusion layers.

For further information please contact Professor Derek B Ingham

Back to the top

Efficient PEM fuel cells for portable applications

Supervisor: Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, Professor Lin Ma, Dr Kevin Hughes and Dr Mohammed S Ismail

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells are an efficient technology which can be used in a wide portable, automotive and stationary applications. Due to its simplicity and relatively high efficiency, the use of the air-breathing PEM fuel cells, where oxygen is directly supplied to the fuel cell from the ambient, to power small electronic devices such as smartphones and notebooks is appealing. In such applications, such types of fuel cells could either replace the rechargeable batteries or charge them. The main objective of this project is to enhance the efficiency and the cost-effectiveness of the air-breathing fuel cells through employing new designs and/or materials. The project could involve building a prototype of the fuel cell system that powers a small electronic device and/or producing a mathematical/CFD model.

For further information please contact Professor Derek B Ingham.

Back to the top

Novel cathode electrodes for PEM fuel cells

Supervisor: Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, Professor Lin Ma, Dr Kevin Hughes and Dr Mohammed S Ismail

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells can operate at low temperatures and are scalable. Therefore, they can be used in a wide range of applications, such as portable, automotive and stationary applications. The cathode electrode is the main source of performance loss in PEM fuel cells. This is due to low utilisation of the catalyst and the slow reaction rate. The main objective of this project is to optimise the structure of the cathode electrode to substantially increase its utilisation. Modelling tools will be used to optimise the structures of the catalyst before synthesising and testing them.

For further information please contact Professor Derek B Ingham.

Back to the top

Nanoscale imaging of the cathode electrodes used in PEM fuel cells

Supervisor: Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, Professor Lin Ma, Dr Kevin Hughes and Dr Mohammed S Ismail
Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells are a promising clean power conversion technology as they are efficient and can operate at low temperatures.Therefore, they can be used in a wide range of portable, automotive and stationary applications. The cathode electrode is the main source of performance loss in PEM fuel cells and this is due to low utilisation of the catalyst and the slow reaction rate. The main objective of this project is nanoscale image the normally-used cathode electrodes using X-ray computed tomography and/or Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron microscopy (FIB-SEM). These images will be used to obtain insights on how to improve the performance of the cathode electrodes through, for example, performing pore-scale simulations and extracting effective morphological parameters.

For further information please contact Professor Derek B Ingham.

Back to the top

Characterisation of the porous media used in PEM fuel cells

Supervisor: Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, Professor Lin Ma, Dr Kevin Hughes and Dr Mohammed S Ismail
Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells are one of the most promising clean power conversion technology that has been increasingly adopted by several countries to reduce the emission of the greenhouse gas emissions. However, there are still some challenges that must be overcome to increase the deployment of the technology, such as water flooding and low durability. Fuel cell modelling is an effective way to reduce the amount of the experimentation needed to test new designs and/or materials. However, the prediction of the modelled fuel cell relies on a large number of input parameters such as the gas permeability, the electrical conductivity, the diffusivity and the contact angle. The main objective of this project is to precisely estimate these input parameters experimentally in order to enhance the predictions of the modelled PEM fuel cell.

For further information please contact Professor Derek B Ingham.

Back to the top