Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Fuel cell technology

This research area focuses on the study of devices which generate electricity directly through the oxidation of fuel.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This research area focuses on the study of devices which generate electricity directly through the oxidation of fuel. It includes materials, fabrication, fuel development and testing for these devices, plus studies in modelling and degradation and any related socio-economic and environmental issues.

Fuel Cell Technology is not currently a high priority for government or industry and has a comparatively lower impact than other technologies on the UK’s ability to reach its ambitious 2050 greenhouse gas reduction targets.

EPSRC will, however, support many significant research challenges which fall within related research areas and themes, for example:

These will be key to future advances and potential of the fuel cell as a device.

Within the fuel cell technology research area

We would encourage projects linking to and supporting these other areas, for example:

  • modelling and analysis for scaling-up manufacturing and ensuring quality control
  • research into fuel cells’ degradation and operating characteristics to help commercialisation and use of the technology.

We will also encourage applications at the interfaces of fuel cell technology with other research areas, in particular:

We will give consideration to fuel cells’ role in future models of domestic heat and power, transport and freight and hydrogen-based economies, and to the research demands posed by these evolving models. Fuel cell research will also feed directly into policy discussion on future energy scenarios.

Specific research challenges will be determined by the areas where fuel cells are shown to be commercially viable.

Sustainability

If fuel cells are to be a viable and widely used technology, sustainability of production, recycling and disposal must be considered. Alternatives to precious metal catalysts are to be sought at the materials level.

Commercial viability

As fuel cells may be nearing a point of commercial viability, it will be sensible to maintain a population and pipeline of trained specialists in this area.

We aim to maintain core capability to ensure that we are ready for any commercial progress that may occur.

We also aim to encourage researchers to consider related research areas to take forward innovations in materials, production and quality control.

Why we're doing it

The UK is seen to have a strong fuel cell research community with good links to industry, through:

  • Supergen Centre
  • Fuel Cells and their Fuels Centre for Doctoral Training.

Lack of a fuel network

Many models show that fuel cells could have an important part to play in a long-term zero-carbon or carbon-negative energy strategy.

However, their efficacy in the short term depends on the development and establishment of a widely available low-carbon or carbon-neutral fuel network, both for transport and domestic applications. These networks are certainly not as close to realisation as low-carbon or carbon-neutral electricity networks, which most models see as playing a more immediate and major role in reducing UK carbon dependence.

Driving commercial uptake

Until fuel cells become more viable, the emphasis should be on developing new materials, improving manufacturing and identifying valid routes of commercialisation and scale-up. This can drive the technology as it stands towards commercial uptake while preparing the fundamental materials for the next generation of fuel cells.

Research pool

Fuel Cell Technology belongs to a group of research areas which share a pool of electrochemical researchers. These include:

Many researchers in one area will have interests in some of the others, and will be able to move from one to another relatively easily.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for fuel cell technology.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Dr James Tarver, Senior Portfolio Manager

Email: james.tarver@epsrc.ukri.org

Telephone: 01793 444472

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