NFCRC Research Overview

The research at the NFCRC bridges from fundamental science to practical applications. With purpose built, state-of-the-art facilities and diagnostics, theoretical and experimental studies are addressed from electrochemistry science to the deployment of megawatt fuel cell systems. Studies and faculty collaborate in team research across a multi-disciplinary research portfolio.

The research in Novel Applications looks at advanced applications of fuel cell technology. One notable example, described below under "Hybrid Systems," is the integration of a fuel cell with a Brayton (gas turbine) cycle. Another, conceived and developed by the NFCRC, is the tri-generation of hydrogen in addition to electricity and heat from a stationary fuel cell. Incorporation of fuel cells into server racks to power the burgeoning demand of cloud resources is yet another example of a novel NFCRC application study.

The research in Stationary Systems addresses the application of fuel cells to generate electricity and, as needed, heat for homes, commercial buildings, industry, and university and research campuses in distributed generation, and to be the principal power block for central power generation. Given the high-efficiency and virtually zero-emission characteristics of fuel cells, the technology is perfectly positioned to provide the needed 24/7, clean, load-following performance required to accommodate a high penetration of intermittent renewable solar and wind resources at both the distributed and central generation levels.

The research in Mobile Systems focuses on improved fuel cell stack design and on the hydrogen fueling infrastructure to support the transformation of vehicles from gasoline and diesel to renewable hydrogen.

The research in Dynamic Modeling is a long-standing focus of the NFCRC directed to quantitatively characterizing the response of fuel cells to dynamic loads, and the controls required to operate fuel cells that are powering dynamic loads.

The research in Hybrid Systems looks at combining fuel cells with other resources in order to enhance the already high fuel-to-electricity efficiency, expand the dynamic performance, or a combination of both. The NFCRC, for example, as led the development of integrating the fuel cell with a gas turbine to increase the efficiency to levels that exceed either technology, and create as well a power generation resource that produces virtually zero emission of criteria pollutants with fuel flexibility from natural gas to renewable hydrogen.

The research in Electrochemical Systems and Devices encompasses fundamental studies associated with batteries, fuel cells, and electrolyzers. Comprehensive experimental and theoretical studies are utilized to explore the efficiency, degradation, lifetime, and environmentally sensitive material sets associated with the escalating future dependency on electrochemical technology. The instrumentation and diagnostics are world-class, state-of-the-art, and the experimental facilities to support the fundamental studies are second-to-none.