National Physical Laboratory

Electrochemical Energy Conversion & Storage

Fuel cells are electrochemical power sources with the advantages of high power density and high efficiency

Electrochemical devices such as fuel cells, electrolysers, batteries and redox flow cells show great promise for large scale energy conversion and storage applications. Stored electrochemical energy has the potential to bridge the gap between electricity supply and demand that arises with intermittent renewable energy generation technologies such as solar and wind power.

Government policy is supporting research and demonstration of these technologies, which can benefit the environment by facilitating carbon neutral grid supply and transport when the primary energy is produced from renewable sources.

NPL has been carrying out research into metrology for fuel cells since 2004 and is working closely with the emerging UK fuel cell industry to develop innovative in situ measurement techniques, advanced models and test methods to support more durable and cost effective fuel cell systems. More recently, the remit of this work has expanded to incorporate electrolysers, lithium ion batteries and redox flow cells.

For more information, please contact Gareth Hinds

Recent highlights

  • Innovative fuel cell reference electrode that facilitates, for the first time, mapping of electrode potential across the active area of an operating fuel cell
  • Novel galvanostatic technique for simultaneous in situ measurement of electrochemical active surface area of each electrode in a fuel cell stack
  • Synchrotron imaging of lithium ion batteries during thermal runaway
  • Development of multiphysics model of PEM fuel cell performance in an accessible software platform
  • Application of digital volume correlation to mapping of electrode strain during discharge of lithium ion batteries
  • In situ thermal imaging technique for characterisation of hot spots in operating PEM fuel cells
  • Redefinition of screening test conditions for metallic bipolar plates based on in situ measurement of corrosion potential
  • Application of novel reference electrode to PEM water electrolysers, direct methanol fuel cells and redox flow cells

External collaboration

The core UK government-funded metrology research is guided by an Industrial Advisory Group (IAG), which meets twice a year to steer the direction of the work and ensure it is closely aligned with industry needs. New members are always welcome. Current members of the IAG include:

NPL also has strong links with academia, with joint PhD/EngD studentships at the following universities:

NPL actively participates in collaborative research projects (Innovate UK / Horizon 2020) and also carries out research and testing on a commercial contract basis for a range of customers.


Recent publications

  • Detection of internal defects in lithium ion batteries using lock-in thermography, J.B. Robinson, E. Engebretsen, D.P. Finegan, J. Darr, G. Hinds, P.R. Shearing, D.J. L. Brett, ECS Electrochemistry Letters, 4, A106-A109 (2015)
  • Influence of weld preparation procedure and heat tinting on sulfide stress corrosion cracking of duplex stainless steel, L. Wickström, G. Hinds, A. Turnbull, Corrosion, 71, 1036-1047 (2015)
  • In-operando high-speed tomography of lithium-ion batteries during thermal runaway, D.P. Finegan, M. Scheel, J.B. Robinson, B. Tjaden, I. Hunt, T.J. Mason, J. Millichamp, M. Di Michiel, G.J. Offer, G. Hinds, D.J.L. Brett, P.R. Shearing, Nature Communications, 6, 6924 (2015)
  • Towards more representative test methods for corrosion resistance of PEMFC metallic bipolar plates, G. Hinds, E. Brightman, Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 40, 2785-2791 (2015)
  • In situ characterisation of PEM water electrolysers using a novel reference electrode, E. Brightman, J. Dodwell, N. Van Dijk, G. Hinds, Electrochem. Commun., 52, 1-4 (2015)
  • Multi-objective optimization of lithium-ion battery model using genetic algorithm approach, L. Zhang, L. Wang, G. Hinds, C. Lyu, J. Zheng, J. Li, J. Power Sources, 270, 367-78 (2014)
  • In situ mapping of potential transients during start-up and shut-down of a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell, E. Brightman, G. Hinds, J. Power Sources, 267, 160-170 (2014)
  • Parameter sensitivity analysis of cylindrical LiFePO4 battery performance using multi-physics modeling, L.Q. Zhang, C. Lyu, G. Hinds, L.X. Wang, W.L. Luo, J. Zheng, K.H. Ma, J. Electrochem. Soc., 161, A762-A776 (2014)
  • Non-uniform temperature distribution in Li-ion batteries during discharge - A combined thermal imaging, X-ray micro-tomography and electrochemical impedance approach, J.B. Robinson, J.A. Darr, D.S. Eastwood, G. Hinds, P.D. Lee, P.R. Shearing, O.O. Taiwo, D.J.L. Brett, J. Power Sources, 252, 51-57 (2014)
  • Spatially resolved diagnostic methods for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells: a review, C, Kalyvas, A. Kucernak, D. Brett, G. Hinds, S. Atkins, N. Brandon, WIREs Energy Environ., 3, 254-275 (2014)
  • An electrochemical treatment to improve corrosion and contact resistance of stainless steel bipolar plates used in polymer electrolyte fuel cells, E.M. Gabreab, G. Hinds, S. Fearn, D. Hodgson, J. Millichamp, P.R. Shearing, D.J.L. Brett, J. Power Sources, 245, 1014-1026 (2014)
  • Influence of acoustic cavitation on the controlled ultrasonic dispersion of carbon nanotubes, A. Sesis, M. Hodnett, G. Memoli, A.J. Wain, I. Jurewicz, A.B. Dalton, J.D. Carey, G. Hinds, J. Phys. Chem. B, 117, 15141-15150 (2013)
  • In situ mapping of electrode potential in a PEMFC, G. Hinds, ECS Transactions, 58, 1565-1587 (2013)
  • In situ measurement of active catalyst surface area in fuel cell stacks, E. Brightman, G. Hinds, R. O'Malley, J. Power Sources, 242, 244-247 (2013)
  • Humidity, pressure and temperature measurements in an interdigitated-flow PEM hydrogen fuel cell, S. Bell, G. Hinds, M. de Podesta, M. Stevens, J. Wilkinson, Int. J. Thermophys., 33, 1583-1594 (2012)
  • In situ mapping of electrode potential in a PEM fuel cell, G. Hinds, E. Brightman, Electrochem. Commun., 17, 26-29 (2012)
  • What Happens Inside a Fuel Cell? Developing an Experimental Functional Map of Fuel Cell Performance, D.J.L. Brett, A.R. Kucernak, P. Aguiar, S.C. Atkins, N.P. Brandon, R. Clague, L.F. Cohen, G. Hinds, C. Kalyvas, G.J. Offer, B. Ladewig, R. Maher, A. Marquis, P. Shearing, N. Vasileiadis, V. Vesovic, Chem. Phys. Chem., 11, 2714 (2010)
  • Electrocatalytic activity mapping of model fuel cell catalyst films by scanning electrochemical microscopy, P. Nicholson, S. Zhou, G. Hinds, A. Wain, A. Turnbull, Electrochimica Acta, 54, 4525-4533 (2009)
  • Novel in-situ measurements of relative humidity in a PEMFC, G. Hinds, M. Stevens, J. Wilkinson, M. de Podesta, S. Bell, J. Power Sources 186, 52-57 (2009)


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