Research Capabilities

As the nation's first university fuel cell research center, the NFCRC is recognized for its pioneering research and development in areas that include:

  • State-of-the-art fuel cell simulation and analyses methodologies

  • Next-generation hybrid fuel cell-gas turbine systems for both DG, central power, and aerospace applications

  • Operation of the world's first pressurized hybrid fuel cell gas turbine system - a revolutionary solid oxide fuel cell-based technology with world-record fuel-to-electricity conversion efficiency

  • Aerospace fuel cell systems simulation and development

  • Measurement of fuel cell performance for thermodynamic conditions corresponding to altitudes up to 56,000 feet.

The NFCRC is best known for its leadership in developing fuel cells for stationary power and its role in working with leading industries and agencies to advance distributed generation (DG) fuel cell technology. Stationary fuel cell technology is vital for generating power for homes and businesses, and is directly tied to the supply of clean hydrogen for refueling fuel cell automobiles. Recently, the NFCRC has begun working with NASA and major aviation and aeronautics companies to advance fuel cell technology for aerospace applications.

The NFCRC maintains a wide array of state-of-the-art test facilities and research measurement capabilities for fuel cell and other energy conversion devices. These allow detailed analyses of fuel cell components and systems, including overall system performance, internal component performance, and the characterization of materials and subcomponents. The center, located on the University of California, Irvine campus, includes 14 test facilities dedicated to fuel cell, hybrid fuel cell-gas turbine, and combustion-based energy conversion device research.

The center's research facilities allow for the delivery of a large flow of highly pressurized air to support high-throughput experiments. Three 300 horsepower electric air compressors can provide 2400 SCFM of air at 140 psig, and a booster air compressor can provide 450 SCFM at 450 psig. In addition, the NFCRC is set up to provide a significant flow of natural gas at high pressures as well as a variety of natural gas-based or carbon monoxide and hydrogen-based simulated landfill, digester, and synthesis gases.

Separate materials development and fabrication lab facilities support a wide array of current research projects focused on novel materials and processes for solid oxide fuel cells and fuel processing.

Summary of NFCRC Research Capabilities

Air Factory
4 lbs/sec at 8 ATM, 1 lb/sec at up to 30 ATM

Fuel Delivery
  • Natural gas to 0.2 lb/sec, 500 psia
  • Liquid fuels to 80 gpm, 1000 psia
  • Hydrogen and hydrogen/nitrogen mix flows
  • Fuel variation simulation facility
  • Natural gas
  • Biomass gases
  • Landfill/digester gas
  • Synthetic/process gases
Conventional Diagnostics
  • Extractive emissions, e.g., FID, NDIR, IR
  • Gas chromatography
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Atomic absorption
  • Temperature
  • Soot
  • High-speed video
  • Power system computer simulation
  • Computational fluid dynamics (fluent, fluent-UNS, CFC Ace+, FEMLAB)
  • Chemical kinetics
  • Empirical/Statistical, e.g., design of experiments
  • Thermodynamic and cycle analyses
  • Dynamic systems modeling
  • Stress/strain analyses (FEMLAB)
Optical Diagnostics
  • Laser anemometry
  • Digital particle image velocimetry
  • Coherent Anti-stokes raman scattering
  • Planar laser-induced fluorescence
  • Laser rayleigh
  • Laser diffraction
  • Phase Doppler interferometry
  • Chemiluminesence
  • Differential absorption
  • Transient grating spectroscopy
Materials Development and Fabrication
  • Solid state reaction
  • Wet chemistry materials development
  • Glycine-nitrate process
  • Sol-Gel
  • Co-precipitation
  • Fuel cell manufacturing equipment
  • Ball milling
  • Uni-axial dry press
  • Tape caster
  • Screen printer
  • Calcining furnaces
  • Sintering furnaces
Fuel Cell Testing Equipment
  • High pressure/temperature single cell
  • High temperature button cell
  • High temperature/pressure stack
  • Low pressure/temperature PEMFC cell test
  • PEMFC stack testing
  • Reformer testing
  • Integrated SOFC system testing
  • Integrated hybrid SOFC/GT system tests
  • Integrated PV fuel cell testing
  • Electrolyzer and reversible FC testing
  • Hydrogen refueling test/evaluation
  • Load banks
Advanced Characterization Techniques
  • X-ray diffractometer
  • Scanning electron microscope with energy dispersive spectroscope
  • High precision electrochemical test stand
  • Impedence analyzer with multistat multichannel potentiostat
  • Transmission electron microscope
Other Specific Facilities and Capabilities
  • Clean room
  • Capacitive discharge spot welder