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Understanding the impact of impurities in hydrogen fuel


Hydrogen cars and other fuel cell-powered vehicles offer great potential for clean, carbon-neutral transportation. A challenge remains, however, due to the risk of contaminants in hydrogen available to the consumer at hydrogen refuelling stations.

Contaminants originating in the hydrogen supply chain can damage fuel cells as well as increasing overall pollution. To address this issue and provide confidence for consumers in the quality of hydrogen fuel, we are working with five other leading centres for European fuel research on the Horizon 2020 HYDRAITE project  to investigate the impact of contamination on fuel cell performance, and hence to establish purity standards for hydrogen sources.

Through the HYDRAITE project, we will establish a unique measurement facility, combining the expertise of the Electrochemistry Group in fuel cell stack testing with our in-house expertise in hydrogen gas purity analysis. The tests will quantify fuel cell performance in the presence of a range of contaminants, using automotive-type short stacks under realistic automotive conditions and drive cycles. The impact of accumulation of key contaminants and reaction products in operating fuel cell stacks due to fuel recirculation will also be identified.

As an output from the project, we will create contaminant measurement protocols for fuel cells under automotive-type operation, and advise on revisions of ISO 14687, the international standard for hydrogen fuel quality. A methodology will also be developed for live monitoring of hydrogen quality at refuelling stations. Through HYDRAITE, we will become one of three laboratories in Europe capable of measuring all of the contaminants specified in ISO 14687, underpinning confidence in the provision of hydrogen fuel to consumers in the UK as well as elsewhere in Europe.

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