DTU sets new record with extremely low degradation rate in fuel cells

Tuesday 06 Dec 16

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Jens Oluf Jensen
Professor
DTU Energy
+45 45 25 23 14

DTU Energy, the clean technology company Danish Power Systems and partners have attained the best operating stability of high temperature polymer fuel cells ever seen

Fuel cells convert the chemical energy in a fuel directly into electricity and heat. They can do it with a higher efficiency than traditional power generating technologies. However, this is not enough to see widespread use of fuel cells: They also have to be durable enough during operation to allow for a long system lifetime. Now, DTU Energy in collaboration with Danish Power Systems, one of the world leading producers of fuel cells, has set a new world record with the lowest degradation rate of a high temperature polymer fuel cell (HT-PEM) ever recorded.

Tonny Søndergaard, a PhD student at DTU Energy, has measured a degradation rate of only a half microvolt per hour in a 9,000 hours test. This is equivalent to a degradation rate of only 0.00008 % per hour!

“We have never heard or read about such low degradation rates, so this is simply a world record”, states CEO of Danish Power Systems, Hans Aage Hjuler.

"We have never heard or read about such low degradation rates, so this is simply a world record"
Hans Aage Hjuler, CEO of Danish Power Systems,

The results from DTU Energy have been submitted as a scientific paper to be published soon. The scientific breakthrough is a direct result of years of collaboration between DTU and Danish Power Systems and was made possible with funding from Innovation Fund Denmark and the PSO-funded ForskEl-programme.

"Many years of dedicated research and cooperation are now starting to bear fruit," says Professor Jens Oluf Jensen, who is coordinating the research in high-temperature polymer fuel cells at DTU Energy.

The very low degradation rates are extremely important for commercial applications, e.g. small combined heat and power (CHP) plants for production of both electricity and heat in individual households. The CHP technology need a lifespan of five years or more from the cells before achieving a commercial breakthrough, and with the record low degradation of polymer fuel cells, this goal has come much closer.

High-temperature polymer fuel cells

The Department of Energy Conversion and Storage work on high-temperature PEMFC (HT-PEMFC) for operation at approx. 160 °C. This has a number of advantages, including lower sensitivity to impurities in the hydrogen and easier heat management of the cells. This makes the auxiliary components of the fuel cell system simpler and cheaper.

Two promising applications of HT-PEMFC is for transportation and for micro-CHP (combined heat and power) for single houses. Key research topics include development of new and improved materials, synthesis of catalysts, studies of electrode structures, and test of cells. Read more about the research in high-temperature PEMFC