The Hydrogen Stream: Novel design for high-power PEM fuel cells


Institute for Basic Science (IBS) researchers in South Korea have presented a novel method to produce uniformly sized cobalt-platinum (Co-Pt) alloy nanoparticles through heat treatment. Bipyridine and chlorine ligands surround Co and Pt ions, respectively. The heat treatment then causes the bipyridine ligand to thermally decompose into a carbon shell that can protect the growing Co-Pt alloy nanoparticles. “In the nanocatalyst developed by the group, Co and Pt atoms were arranged in a regular way called the ‘intermetallic phase,’ where the unstable Co atoms are stabilized by the surrounding Pt atoms,” the researchers said in “Scalable production of an intermetallic Pt–Co electrocatalyst for high-power proton-exchange-membrane fuel cells,” which was recently published in Energy & Environmental Science. “When nitrogen was effectively doped onto the carbon support, ionomers (proton conductors) were homogeneously dispersed over the entire catalyst layer in the fuel cell, which better facilitated the supply of oxygen gas to the surface of the Co-Pt nanocatalyst.” The team said that the “simple and scalable method” offers enhanced fuel cell power performance with lower platinum use. Compared to state-of-the-art fuel cell catalysts, it “showed almost twice the power performance per platinum use,” said the researchers.

UNSW Sydney researchers have developed an algorithm that produces high-resolution modeled images from lower-resolution micro X-ray computerized tomography (CT) to enhance images of hydrogen Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC). They aim to control water flows within fuel cells. “An advancement in water modeling is achieved using X-ray micro-computed tomography, deep learned super-resolution, multi-label segmentation, and direct multi-phase simulation,” said the researchers. The PEMFCs can become inefficient if the water cannot properly flow out of the cell and subsequently “floods” the system. “Until now, it has been very hard for engineers to understand the precise ways in which water drains, or indeed pools, inside the fuel cells due to their very small size and very complex structures,” the team said. They reported that the algorithm improves the field of view by around 100 times compared to the high-res image. The same scanner needs to take the low-res and high-res images. During training and testing, the algorithm achieved 97.3% accuracy when producing high-res modeling from low-res imagery and created a high-resolution model in just one hour. The researchers described their findings in “Large-scale physically accurate modelling of real proton exchange membrane fuel cell with deep learning,” which was recently published in Nature Communications. 

Germany and Belgium have agreed to link their hydrogen networks by 2028. “We want to deepen our dialogue on the production of hydrogen, inside and outside Europe, for trilateral cooperation, and on regulatory work within the European Union,” the countries stated. They said they will jointly examine possible cooperation in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. 

Dutch, German and Australian companies have expressed intentions to participate in TrHyHub, a joint hydrogen hub in Western Australia. “The Port of Rotterdam Authority and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) confirmed their intention for further partnership,” said the Port of Rotterdam. About 20 companies plan to focus on the development of policy, standards, certifications, technologies, and supply chains. 

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Lhyfe has obtained a construction permit for its second green and renewable hydrogen production site in the Morbihan region of Brittany, France. “Lhyfe Bretagne, which should be operational by the second half of 2023, will mainly supply hydrogen for transport in the region and the industrial processes of regional companies,” said the French hydrogen producer. It will begin civil engineering work at the end of February to produce up to 2 tons of green hydrogen per day (5 MW) next to a wind farm. Clients will be within a radius of about 150 km. The company aims to install more than 3 GW of capacity by 2030.

Tevva has performed a range test of a hydrogen-electric prototype truck, driving a total of 1,000 km. “The return journey saw the truck cover almost 350 miles (563 km) alone, without needing a single stop for recharging,” said the UK-based company. “This was made possible by the truck’s hydrogen fuel cell which tops up the range-extended (Rex) vehicle’s lithium battery when needed.”

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