Overview

The National Fuel Cell Research Center (NFCRC) was dedicated in 1998 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) to accelerate the development and deployment of fuel cell technology, provide an outreach to the market, and address market hurdles.

The University of California at Irvine (UCI) has a rich tradition in energy and environmental studies, and is located in the heart of a region that is internationally recognized for leadership in energy and transportation research and innovation. The City of Irvine is one of the largest planned communities in the country and known for its long standing record of environmental stewardship. The majority of the world's automobile designs emanate from the region, and the area is the home to the world's largest concentration of energy consulting firms.

The NFCRC engages undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines of engineering and the physical and biological sciences, and collaborates on courses and team projects with both the social sciences and business sciences. Faculty have a long standing tradition as well in the conduct of collaborative studies with the health sciences. The outreach of the NFCRC is conducted with institutions around the world, through the California Stationary Fuel Cell Collaborative (CaSFCC), the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CFCP), the Fuel Cell Seminar, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the Annual International Colloquium on Environmentally Preferred Advanced Power Generation (ICEPAG).

The NFCRC is part of the UCI Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) which encompasses:

  • The UCI Combustion Laboratory (with in-depth research in combustion and spray atomization),

  • The Energy Systems Integration and Impacts Center (with in-depth research in smart grid and microgrid technology, and next generation vehicle technology),

  • The Renewable Fuels and Energy Storage Centers (with in-depth research in zero-carbon fuels, advanced battery technology, and hydrogen battery technology), and

  • The HORIBA Institute for Mobility and Connectivity2 (with state-of-the-art research in zero emission mobility, the nexus of transportation with the electric grid, and vehicle-to-vehicle communication).

The leadership of the NFCRC consists of:

Professor Jack Brouwer, Ph.D.
Director, National Fuel Cell Research Center
University of California
Irvine, CA 92697-3550
949.824.1999 ext. 11221
jb @ nfcrc.uci.edu

Professor Iryna Zenyuk, Ph.D.
Associate Director, National Fuel Cell Research Center
University of California
Irvine, CA 92697-3550
949.824.1999 ext. 11225
ivz @ nfcrc.uci.edu

Location

The NFCRC is located just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by California's premier beaches, the art of Laguna Beach, the culture and night life of Los Angeles, the famous Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, and the Mojave Desert. From hiking, mountain biking, and surfing to film festivals, art walks, and theater performances, there is truly something for everyone. The welcoming campus of the University of California Irvine (UCI) is known for its leading sustainable operations and philosophy (Sierra Club Top 20 Coolest Schools), and value in education (Money magazine #1 best college in the U.S.). Situated in one of the "Safest Cities in America," UCI is at the heart of one of the leading economic and technology centers in the country.


History

On February 25, 1998, approximately 200 community and energy industry leaders attended the Center's dedication ceremony at the UCI Henry Samueli School of Engineering. Special guest speakers included:

  • U.S. DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coal and Power Systems, George Rudins
  • California Energy Commission Chair William J. Keese
  • Southern California Edison President and COO Stephen S. Frank
  • UCI Chancellor Laurel L. Wilkening
The DOE and the CEC recognized the significance of the NFCRC to bring government agencies, business, and academia together to develop effective public-private alliances in order to develop advanced zero-emission sources of power generation in general, and fuel cell technology in particular.

"We are pleased that the UC Irvine National Fuel Cell Research Center has the commitment of many public and private partners in developing a technology that will help meet the needs of the competitive energy market," said California Energy Commission Chair William J. Keese. "We strongly support the technology transfer and education elements, which are fully consistent with the Energy Commission's goal of expanding consumer choice."

A key partner in establishing the NFCRC in 1998 was the Southern California Edison company and the Pacific Rim Consortium on Combustion, Energy, and the Environment (PARCON).

Mission

The Mission of the NFCRC is to (1) facilitate, demonstrate and accelerate the development and deployment of fuel cell technology and fuel cell systems, and (2) promote strategic alliances to address the market challenges associated with the installation and integration of fuel cell systems.

The application of fuel cell technologies to advanced power generation systems portends a significant advancement in energy efficiency, conservation and environmental protection for this century.

The NFCRC is focused on

  • Stationary power and its role as a distributed generation and central power plant technology,

  • Vehicular power for automobiles, buses, trucks, ships, locomotives, and hoteling on aircraft, and

  • The generation of renewable hydrogen for transportation fueling, energy storage, and industrial feed stock.

Efforts are in progress that address the components of fuel cell systems, and the development, integration, deployment, and connectivity of fuel cell systems.

Approach

Research. Research is accomplished through a collaborative effort with industry and public sector members in order to address and accelerate the development issues necessary to facilitate the commercialization of fuel cell technology, products and their integration.

Education. To raise awareness and understanding of the various challenges, benefits and opportunities of fuel cells, Education is accomplished through courses within the university environment as well as through workshops and conferences directed at the general public and sectors interested and key in the development and commercialization of fuel cells.

Beta Testing. Multi-month Beta Testing of prototype units, a key to both the development of technologies and application to the marketplace, serves three principal roles:

  • Beta Testing provides critical feedback to the manufacturer prior to commercial launch. The testing determines performance, reliability, and the success of engineering. The process allows for the demonstration of reliability, availability, maintainability, durability and usability (RAMDU) while concurrent system improvements are made in an objective yet scrutinizing research setting.

  • Beta Testing provides a showcase, at a neutral and objective site (the university), for potential users of fuel cell technology to critically assess the attributes and liabilities.

  • Beta Testing provides insight and perspective into the limiting science that, if addressed, could significantly affect the evolution of fuel cell technology.

Market Dynamics. In an effort to bridge fuel cell technology development and its successful introduction into the marketplace, the NFCRC is participating in a variety of initiatives through a series of strategic alliances with industry and the public sector. These alliances are critical in order to facilitate the deployment of fuel cell systems. An excellent example is the NFCRC's role as co-chair and co-administrator of the California Stationary Fuel Cell Collaborative.