EPSRC logo

Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/I00422X/1
Title: Investigating carbon formation in solid oxide fuel cell range extenders operating on sustainable alcohol fuels for electric vehicles
Principal Investigator: Offer, Dr GJ
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Earth Science and Engineering
Organisation: Imperial College London
Scheme: Career Acceleration Fellowship
Starts: 01 October 2010 Ends: 30 September 2015 Value (£): 912,680
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Electrochemical Science & Eng. Fuel Cell Technologies
Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
09 Jun 2010 EPSRC Fellowships 2010 Interview Panel G Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Energy costs are rising and the UK must address both energy security and climate change. Transport is a concern as it is particularly challenging to reduce its dependence upon fossil derived liquid fuels. In the transport sector there are three alternative energy carriers that are most often considered, biofuels, hydrogen and fuel cells, and battery electric vehicles. However, vehicles are complex consumer products and the replacement technology must in an ideal world have the following characteristics: good lifecycle efficiency, low cost, good availability, zero net CO2 emissions, high energy density, low cost of energy conversion device, and be easy to handle, transport and refuel. None of the three technologies fulfil all these requirements on their own. However, it is clear that the utilisation of biofuels in existing infrastructure and the electrification of road vehicles via plug in hybrids can deliver the quickest reductions in CO2 emissions from road transport in the near term. However, in the long run alternative technologies will be required. Full electrification and hydrogen fuel cells are often considered. However a fourth alternative, sustainable liquid alcohol fuels and solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) are often overlooked. The approach is synergistic as SOFCs can be used as range extenders for electric vehicles and the alcohol fuel with its high energy density can overcome some of the disadvantages of electric vehicles. It is also possible to make the alcohol fuels from renewable energy using a closed carbon cycle via atmospheric sequestration (or in the short term CO2 capture from flue gas) and reduction of CO2. Electrochemical reduction of CO2 is possible using SOFCs as solid oxide electrolysers (SOEC) to produce syngas (carbon monoxide and hydrogen) which is the first step in making a fuel via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. Success will therefore offer a potential alternative to a hydrogen economy using sustainable liquid fuels and SOFCs with the advantage of higher energy densities and the ability to be transported in and used with existing fuel infrastructure and engine technologies, significantly reducing the risk and cost of transferring to a new energy carrier.Major challenges that need to be overcome to realise this are understanding carbon deposition in low cost intermediate temperature SOFCs, where carbon formation is a problem. A detailed understanding of the reaction kinetics involving carbon is therefore necessary in order to develop both SOFCs capable of operating on alcohol fuels and SOECs that can electrochemically reduce CO2. Existing electrode materials are also insufficient for this application, and developing a scientific understanding of carbon formation will enable new materials and electrode structures to be developed to mitigate carbon deposition. Investigations will involve emerging techniques such as in-situ Raman spectroscopy and the development of new in-situ techniques, alongside molecular modelling of reaction mechanisms and the development of new electrode materials and structures with controlled micro and nano morphologies.The development of solid oxide technology for this purpose will be groundbreaking, and investigating the mechanism for electrochemical reduction of CO2 in an SOEC entirely novel. In addition, the successful demonstration of electrochemical reduction of CO2 in SOECs will be transferrable to other areas, such as future robotic and even manned missions to Mars, where the atmosphere is over 95% CO2, and where fuel to power missions or a return trip will most likely have to generated in-situ from solar energy and local resources.
Key Findings
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Potential use in non-academic contexts
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.imperial.ac.uk