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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N013670/1
Title: 2-D materials as the next generation membranes in hydrogen generation and low temperature fuel cells.
Principal Investigator: Holmes, Professor S
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
2-DTech Ltd ITM Power Plc
Department: Chem Eng and Analytical Science
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 March 2016 Ends: 29 February 2020 Value (£): 489,657
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Fuel Cell Technologies Sustainable Energy Vectors
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
01 Jul 2015 Adventures in Energy (Sift) Announced
02 Sep 2015 Adventures in Energy Interviews Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Fuel cells have been promoted as a pollution free alternative for energy generation when converting hydrogen into electricity. There are several constraints which have limited the implementation of this technology and this proposal addresses all of the major problems.

To make hydrogen requires energy and using conventional methods requires electricity to electrolyse water, if the electricity comes from fossil fuels then the problem is simply moved rather than solved. To use renewable energy requires electrolysers where the energy intermittently generated by the source (wind, solar, tidal etc) is converted into hydrogen at source by an on-site Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) Electrolyser. The problem with PEM electrolysers is that the membrane used needs to be thick to prevent hydrogen mixing with oxygen to form an explosive mixture but the thickness of the membrane reduces efficiency.

Similar problems manifest themselves in fuel cells, the conversion of hydrogen back into electricity requires a PEM fuel cell, the membrane is the same as in the electrolyser and again needs to be thick to prevent fuel crossover but this again reduces efficiency. A third technology, the Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC) was developed to address the problems around hydrogen storage but again the membrane is the same and again thickness and fuel crossover constrain the efficacy of the membrane.

In this work we intend to take the properties of the graphene and hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) which have been proven to allow protons to pass but prevent all other transport of materials and apply them to the three technologies discussed. The materials challenges around the manufacture of a defect free barrier membrane will be tackled with the added benefit of utilising the expensive platinum catalyst more efficiently.

The potential benefit of this work is that hydrogen production will become more efficient and the cost of converting the fuel into electricity in a fuel cell will decrease as the overall cost of the fuel cell is reduced. This will make viable the use of 'green hydrogen' as an energy storage medium and enable the route to market for PEM fuel cells which are necessary to convert the hydrogen (and other fuels such as methanol) into electrical energy. Another potential benefit of this study is the complete replacement of the membrane material by a supported graphene or hBN. This will facilitate the reduction in volume of a fuel cell, as the fuel will no longer need to be humidified so there will be fewer components, which is important for mobile/portable applications.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk