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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P03098X/1
Title: Novel Porous-Transport-Layers for Fuel Cells and Clean Energy Applications
Principal Investigator: Das, Dr PK
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Engineering
Organisation: Newcastle University
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 15 August 2017 Ends: 14 August 2019 Value (£): 94,807
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy Storage Fuel Cell Technologies
Solar Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
12 Apr 2017 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 12 April 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Porous transport layers or gas-diffusion layers (GDLs) are the key component of polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs), which are made by weaving carbon fibres into a carbon cloth or by pressing carbon fibres together into a carbon paper and then rendered wet-proof by fully saturating the pores with a hydrophobic emulsion. PEFCs produce electric power by reacting hydrogen with oxygen with water as its only by-product, making them a clean power solution for next-generation vehicles and drones to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, GDL's poor durability, as they are prone to liquid-water flooding, and the cost of fuel-cell stacks hinder their widespread adoption in zero-emission vehicles and drones. Further cost reduction for making fuel-cell stack commercially viable requires cost-effective and durable GDLs.

The proposed research programme introduces innovative concepts to the design and development of novel GDLs for PEFCs and related clean energy applications using state-of-the-art additive manufacturing techniques (3D printing), developing experimental protocols for characterising GDLs, and providing a deeper practical understanding of water-droplet growth and detachment from their surfaces. This project aims to combine experimental characterisation and diagnostics with advanced mathematical modelling to analyse water transport through newly designed GDLs and to optimise their properties for better water removal and higher durability than convectional GDLs. The key work will include the following areas: (i) design and fabrication of GDLs with selective wetting properties and surface structures using additive manufacturing techniques; (ii) characterisation of GDL's surface morphology, roughness, adhesion force, and breakthrough pressure and analysis of water-droplet growth and detachment from GDL; (iii) development of a computational model to simulate interfacial interactions between water-droplets and GDL surface; (iv) modification of an existing PEFC model and incorporation of the interfacial model data to optimise GDLs; (v) validation of GDL's real life performances using in-situ fuel cell performance testing.

The novel GDLs will reduce the cost of fuel-cell vehicles and drones by improving the cell durability and performance, and reducing manufacturing time and material waste during the mass production of fuel-cell components. As many of the known fuel cell technologies have been developed in North America, Asia and Germany and acquired in the UK by license agreement, the proposed project will provide a unique opportunity for the UK be the leader in tailored GDLs as well as be the precursor in the development of next-generation fuel cells for vehicle and drone applications.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.ncl.ac.uk