No.7, 22 November 2002
Issue - IEA's Advanced Fuel
Special Issue presents the activities and achievements of the
Advanced Fuel Cells Programme. It is one of some forty programmes
within the IEA's international energy technology collaboration
For more information on the framework: http://www.iea.org/Textbase/techno/index.asp
alternative to fossil fuels
do fuel cells promise to play an increasingly strong role in tomorrow's
energy supply? Because they offer a serious alternative to centralised
fossil fuel electricity generation and to the internal combustion
engine. As world-wide concern grows over global climate change,
limited energy resources and security of supply, fuel cells become
an increasingly attractive option.
Indeed, the President of the European Commission recently pointed
to a vision of Europe in a post-fossil fuel era, where homes generate
the power they need from renewable energy sources, store it as hydrogen
and harness the power using fuel cells for use when needed.
cells are well suited to distributed power generation and combined
heat and power (CHP). Markets for both are expanding steadily. By
2015, Europe, Japan and the USA could have significant installed
power generation capacity. The market looks particularly promising
in Japan, where conventional power generation costs are high, and
Japan's residential market is currently a main target for stationary-application
but also transportation
cells for mobile applications on road and rail are also becoming
a reality. For example, Honda plans to lease 30 hydrogen-powered
fuel cell cars in California and Tokyo by the end of 2002, and DaimlerChrysler
plans to deploy a large fleet of fuel cell cars and buses in 2003.
Fuel cells are also being considered as a replacement for the diesel
body of stakeholders grows
week, experts and policy-makers have gathered in Palm Springs, California
for the 2002 Fuel Cells Seminar "Fuel Cells - Reliable and Clean
Energy for the World". A major annual event in the fuel cells calendar,
this international seminar attracts participants from industry,
the research community, government and, increasingly, from investment
companies. Full details can be found at http://www.gofuelcell.com.
Members of the IEA Advanced Fuel Cells Programme are naturally active
Seminar participants, organising a number of meetings in association
with the event. Expert workshops are notably updating attendees
on Solid Oxide Fuel Cells, Fuel Cells for Transportation and Polymer
Electrolyte Fuel Cells.
is the IEA's Advanced Fuel Cells Programme?
IEA Advanced Fuel Cells Programme was established in 1990 within
the IEA's international energy technology collaborative framework.
It brings together fourteen of the world's leading nations in fuel
cell research and development. The basic aim is to advance the state
of understanding of all contracting parties in the field of advanced
fuel cells. To this end, it operates a co-ordinated programme of
research, technology development and system analysis. The Programme
currently comprises five individual Tasks, also known as Annexes.
These focus on Molten Carbonate (MCFC), on Solid Oxide (SOFC) and
on Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell (PEFC) systems, as well as application
in the stationary area and in transport. Information exchange plays
a major role, through Task meetings, workshops and reports. Work
is undertaken on a task-sharing basis, each participating country
providing an agreed level of effort over the period of the Task.
For an overview of the Programme, its areas of work and participation
information, see the website at: http://
www.ieafuelcell.com. This provides numerous links to further
information on the world of fuel cells.
forces brings results
its expert networks, the IEA Advanced Fuel Cells programme has contributed
significantly to technology development in participating countries.
These networks have enabled specialists to:
research, development and demonstration results;
measurement and monitoring techniques;
information on cell, stack and system performance;
on the development of new procedures and models;
information on application requirements.
a result of information exchange among experts, significant technical
objectives have been met. Standard test procedures have been developed
for MCFC material, cells and stacks. Degradation mechanisms have
been identified for MCFC, SOFC and PEFC stacks under real operating
conditions. Equally noteworthy, fuel cell systems have been given
an initial assessment against user requirements for both stationary
and transport applications.
For more details, consult the Programme's 2001 Annual Report:
For a document on the Programme's current strategy: http://www.ieafuelcell.com/docs/strat99.pdf.
at just two of the IEA Fuel Cells Programme's current Annexes highlights
the sort of technological progress that has been achieved recently.
Electrolyte and Direct Methanol Fuel Cells - Annex XI
electrolyte fuel cells (PEFC) are used for a wide range of applications,
notably for road vehicles, residential power and as an alternative
to batteries. Promising test results were obtained when a 5-kW PEFC
system, developed for residential application, was operated for
over 1000 hours. Contributing factors in the success of this PEFC
system were: high-performance membrane assemblies; optimised flow
in the separator plates; and a natural gas reformer with a very
low (<5 ppm) carbon monoxide release (Korea Institute of Energy
Research). On a much smaller scale, a 50-W fuel cell to replace
the existing nickel-cadmium radio battery was successfully demonstrated,
and a fuel cell was used to charge nickel-lithium batteries (Qinetiq,
In the field of components for polymer electrolyte fuel cells, there
have been encouraging results in developing carbon monoxide-tolerant
anodes. Carbon monoxide enters the fuel cell as a by-product from
reforming natural gas to hydrogen and can be potentially very damaging.
The Netherlands Energy Research Foundation (ECN) achieved the best
carbon monoxide tolerance from their palladium-rich alloy. Meanwhile,
Southampton University in the UK found that the voltage (overpotential)
needed to oxidise damaging carbon monoxide can be halved if tin
is used in addition to platinum in the fuel cell.
A recent breakthrough on direct methanol fuel cells saw the design
and construction of a 30-cell system that constitutes a potential
replacement for the lithium-based battery used in military telecommunication
systems. To learn more, please contact the Annex XI Operating Agent
Oxide Fuel Cells - Annex XIII
IEA Programme's Annex XIII specialises in solid oxide fuel cells
(SOFC), used mainly in power generation and CHP applications. The
Annex members report many significant advances during 2001-2002,
ranging from cost reduction in larger systems through to conception
of more efficient, smaller SOFC units. Interest in SOFC technology
has soared, partly due to the U.S. Department of Energy's recently
launched Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) program,
designed to accelerate commercialisation of SOFCs by improving performance
and reducing cost.
Lower costs and improved operating performance in SOFC demonstration
systems have resulted from work by Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation
of USA, a leader in tubular SOFC technology. A 100-kW atmospheric
system was operated at an efficiency of 46% for two years in the
Netherlands and a further 4000 hours in Germany, with no decline
Substantial progress has been made by various organisations in developing
and testing small SOFC units. In Switzerland and Canada this has
involved residential SOFC development (Sulzer Hexis, Global Thermoelectric
and Fuel Cell Technologies), and, in the United States (Delphi),
an automobile auxiliary power unit. On a larger scale, Australia's
Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd. is advancing steadily in design and fabrication
of a 40-kW power generator using an all-ceramic stack technology.
For more information, please contact the Annex XIII Operating Agent: firstname.lastname@example.org.
glance back to 1996-1999
IEA Programme's activities between 1996 and 1999 offer further examples
of major advances for fuel cells. These include: the compilation
of an inventory of MCFC stack and systems testing procedures (Annex
VI); the exchange of new information on in-situ monitoring of SOFC
performance (Annex VII); and the collaborative development of an
improved reformer model for the steam reforming of methanol (Annex
Meanwhile, work on system issues in relation to stationary applications
(Annex IX) greatly expanded knowledge on integrating stationary
fuel cells into the energy infrastructure. While it is difficult
to compare the importance of achievements yet, Annex X's extensive
network of transport-sector experts from academia, research institutes
and the car industry is seen as a particularly important achievement.
This network is being continued by the current Annex XV.
A summary report of the programme from 1996-1999 is accessible at:
information on the IEA Advanced Fuel Cells programme can be obtained
from the Programme's website at: http://www.ieafuelcell.com,
or by e-mailing Heather Haydock, Secretary to the Programme's Executive