Hydrogen is used as the main fuel in low temperature fuel cell technology, but as it is mainly produced from fossil fuels, it contains carbon-containing impurities. In current models of low temperature fuel cells, the carbon forms carbon monoxide that will clog up the surface of the electrode part of the fuel cell making it less efficient in producing energy.
Researchers from the University’s Chemistry department have been awarded £288,000 of funding from Scottish Enterprise’s Proof of Concept Programme for a two year project to develop their idea of how the electrode can be modified to make it more efficient in dealing with carbon monoxide.
The new electrode design will enable the fuel cell to use either carbon-contaminated hydrogen or hydrocarbon fuels such as methanol, biofuels or natural gas without the need for upstream reforming – a costly and cumbersome process whereby hydrogen fuels are ‘cleaned’ prior to use. This makes it a more cost effective option than the low temperature fuel cell systems that are currently on the market.
It is hoped if successful that the creation of a lower cost option will result in the fuel cell being introduced to the marketplace more quickly and more widely than expected.