Fuel Cells

Fuel cells are complex and innovative electrochemical reactors for very clean and efficient electricity generation. The TPG chemical section is mainly concerned with the development of adequate fuel cell models to be used for the design and development of the fuel cell stack, for performance assessment and for hybrid system simulation and optimisation.

All the following fuel cell types are the object of intensive research:

  • MCFC
  • SOFC

These three categories of fuel cell are modelled with regard to their on-design, off-design and transient behaviour. The results are validated with the support of one of the major European fuel cell manufacturers (Rolls-Royce).

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells: the research activity is mainly concerned with the development of a simulation model for the electro-catalyst of the reactor and the development of a simulation model for the overall reactor. The models, which have been successfully compared to experimental data, allow the identification of optimisation criteria for the electrode composition and thickness, which could lead to a significant improvement in the efficiency of the process. Moreover, the overall reactor simulation provides the non-uniform distribution of the gaseous reactants within each single cell and between the different cells of a stack and the departure of the open circuit voltage from the thermodynamic voltage.

MCFC conceptual operating

Annular SOFC reactor scheme

Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells: the research pursues the development of a specific simulation model capable of identifying the zones of the cell where water condensation can occur. Experimental activity aimed at the preparation of new composite membranes for PEMFC operation at temperatures higher than 100°C has been undertaken in this field in collaboration with Princeton University, USA. The results have demonstrated that it is possible to operate a PEMFC at temperatures equal to or higher than 130°C.