PhD

Stepping into a “Carbon Neutral” Future

Walking past the Hydrogen Fuel Cell and Storage Facility on my way back to the lab today I passed a group on a tour of the facilities, and got a glimpse inside at one of the Universities Hydrogen Hybrid Fuel Cell Vehicles (HHFCV). These funny little cars reduce the need for inefficient internal combustion engine vehicles on campus reducing the Universities carbon footprint.

It is from this centre that, amongst University wide blackouts following last weeks fire at a local electrical sub-station, the University of Birmingham took another step towards carbon neutrality by publishing plans to produce hydrogen on-site. Previously, the super pure hydrogen (99.999%) that fuels the fleet of  HHFCVs had to be supplied from Cambridge company Green Hydrogen. By producing the hydrogen onsite the carbon footprint associated with transporting the hydrogen cylinders can be reduced.

The plans, made available online at the end of last week, show the process behind the production of hydrogen on-site at the university. The production of hydrogen will require PEM Electrolysis technology – splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen atoms, from which the ultra-pure hydrogen will be processed. Purity is everything as the Membrane Electrode Assemblies (MEAs) that drive these cars can be poisoned by the lowest concentrations of impurities causing decreased performance and killing the Fuel Cell.

Life without oil. Image from the University of Birmingham

The Centre for Hydrogen Fuel Research has a list of UK firsts;  it became England’s first public hydrogen filling station in 2008 and developed the first hydrogen-powered canal boat, and now the aims to facilitate the University of Birmingham in becoming the first carbon neutral campus in the UK. The university is also part of the Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Demonstration (CABLED) project promoting the use of low emission vehicles throughout the West Midlands.

By Beckie Port

You can find out more about the Hydrogen Research at the universities webpages and from the Centre for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research. Beckie Port is a PhD student at the University of Birmingham.

Reference:

Symes, Daniel, et al., “Design for On-Site Hydrogen Production for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Refueling Station at University of Birmingham, UK.” Energy Procedia 29 (2012): 606-615

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