Sustainable Energy Research Group
Fuel Cells are electrochemical devices that produce electricity from the chemical energy of a fuel. Similar in operation to a battery, they do not go flat or need recharging. as long as they are supplied with fuel and oxidant (usually air). There are several different types of fuel cell and the University of Queensland is involved in a number of projects on Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuels, Solid Oxide (SOFC) and Molten Carbonate (MCFC) fuel cells. Variants of these types are also under investigation, namely the Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC) and the Direct Carbon (DCFC).
PEM fuel cells have been investigated in conjunction with the Australian National University, QUT and other collaborators. Our current focus is in developing new low-Pt and non precious metal catalysts for PEM fuel cells. This work is supported by the Australia - India Strategic Research Fund, and by the University of Kuala Lumpar.
SOFC research over the past few years has been through a long collaboration with Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd. Our research has focused on developing an understanding of the interface between electrodes (particularly the anode) and the electrolyte in state-of-the-art SOFC cells and stacks. More recently we have been investigating a new class of fast ionic conducting materials for use as intermediate temperature SOFCs and as gas separation membranes.
MCFC research has been concerned with the development and characterisation of catalyst materials for internal reforming of fuels such as natural gas, in a collaboration wtih the Gas Technology Institute (USA). More recently some work has been carried out at UQ on direct carbon fuel cells, a variant of the more traditional MCFC.
Related to the work on fuel cells is that of fuel processing, particularly the catalytic steam reforming of hydrocarbon fuels. Some of this work has also been in collaboration with CFCL and the Gas Technology Institute. In 2010 a project was started supported by a QSEIF grant to investigate advanced fuel processing using microchannel reactor tecnology.
All of the work on fuel cells is being carried out within the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland.