Innovators accelerate European fuel-cell success

The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Undertaking (FCH JU) presented the 2020 FCH JU Awards at the first European Hydrogen Week. Winning projects simplify and facilitate maintenance, speed up manufacturing and deploy clean fuel-cell technologies to the public to drive forward the energy transition. In addition, Hydrogen Europe Research have recognised talented young scientists for expanding access to sustainable, efficient fuel-cell technology for a wide range of high-impact applications.

The Awards were presented online on 24 November 2020, with more than 1000 attendees signed up to applaud the strength and diversity of European fuel-cell innovation.

The first two awards — the Best Success Story and Best Innovation — were chosen by public vote from 21 nominees.

The Best Success Story of the year is ‘Advanced tools for better-performing stationary fuel-cell systems’, which received over 60 % of the vote in its category. A series of projects (D-CODE, DESIGN, DIAMOND, GENIUS, HEALTH-CODE, INSIGHT and now RUBY) have developed IT-based tools that quickly detect faults in fuel-cell stacks. The technology boosts the reliability of stationary fuel-cell systems, facilitates their maintenance and reduces associated costs, increasing the already strong case for on-site clean power generation.
The award was presented by Valérie Bouillon-Delporte, President of Hydrogen Europe and Chair of the FCH JU Governing Board. She outlined the practical impact of the research. “The transport sector is one that has much to gain from early diagnostic tools.”
Accepting the award, Professor Cesare Pianese of the Università degli Studi di Salerno, who coordinated several of the projects contributing to the story, said: “We have built a wide community active in the field of diagnostics to improve the reliability of fuel cells … This prize confirms the achievement of our original aim.”
His colleague, Dr Julie Mougin of the French research organisation Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA), Grenoble added, “Increasing the lifetime of static fuel cells and reducing costs are two key criteria for market penetration. Thanks to INSIGHT and HEALTH-CODE, we have a validated approach.”

The MAMA-MEA project, led by Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells Limited, won the votes for Best Innovation for its revolutionary approach to producing fuel-cell membranes. An additive manufacturing process replaces assembly from individual layers to meet demand from manufacturers for reliable low-waste production. This helps them to compete on cost and quality in the booming PEM fuel-cell market. “Our goal is to make disruptive changes in manufacturing processes,” said Dipl.-Ing. Vladimír Buday, the project coordinator and team leader for chemical engineering at Technische Universität Chemnitz.
Hélène Chraye, Head of the Clean Energy Transition Unit, DG RTD, at the European Commission presented the award: “I am pleased to see this as demonstrating how far the collaboration between the FCH JU, the research community, industry and policymakers can deliver world-class solutions and accelerate the clean transition around the world.”

Powering ahead

On-site generation features in the Best Outreach award, which went to EVERYWH2ERE. The project has designed mobile fuel-cell generators that can power festivals, events and construction sites safely without the noise and pollution of diesel generators. Eight of the plug-and-play generators, built entirely from European components, are being trialled across Europe at events such as the Berlinale and Cannes Film Festival before commercialisation in 2025.
“This is a project that has made an exceptional effort in communication and outreach,” said Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director, FCH JU, who handed over the award. “EVERYWH2ERE will make hydrogen affordable to operate everywhere in European cities.”
“Hydrogen can be a key technology to reduce the impact of generators on construction sites and other temporary power in our cities. We spent a lot of time contacting stakeholders — not only at music events but at congresses and workshops,” added Stefano Barberis of RINA Consulting on behalf of the project. The consortium expects to use the generators at music events in 2021 and is contacting city stakeholders to validate the technology in urban environments.

The Hydrogen Europe Research Young Scientist Award concluded the ceremony. The award recognises three outstanding young scientists for their contribution to FCH technologies for transport, energy systems and cross-cutting issues such as safety or education. Each winner receives EUR 500 and a certificate.
Dr Laurent Antoni, President of Hydrogen Europe Research, introduced the winners. ‘Hydrogen Europe Research wants to encourage with these awards our young scientists to engage themselves in the development of hydrogen technologies.’
The award for transport research went to Dr Matteo Testi of the Fondazione Bruno Kessler. Among many other achievements, the 33-year-old is contributing to the strategy for hydrogen trains in the Italian rail sector. “The work we are doing now is starting to have big results. Hydrogen is being recognised as a solution for the deep and complete decarbonisation of our society,” he said.

Dr Fabiola Panto, from the National Research Council of Italy (CNR), received the award for research for energy systems. In particular, she is helping to reduce reliance on expensive critical raw materials such as platinum: “The replacement of platinum metals with ceramic-free catalysts cuts the high costs of metals and improves the sustainability of electrocatalysts for long-term applications of PEM technologies.”

Finally, Kevin Arturo Redosado Leon, a master’s student at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, received the cross-cutting prize for an e-tool that trains specialists and non-specialists alike in hydrogen technology. “Few tools have been developed for the public to use. It acts as a first approach for engineering calculations,” he explained. The tool has been used in the NET-Tools project and has applications for safety as well as education.

Programme Review Report 2019

To find out more about the research supported by the FCH JU, go to the Programme Review Report 2019 by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). This report gives an overview of all FCH JU activities, highlighting the added value, effectiveness and techno-economic efficiency of FCH-JU-funded projects.

Activities are assessed for their impact on transport or energy and studied at different stages of readiness — trials and deployment of applications and next-generation products. Energy projects that integrate hydrogen at a sectoral level have an additional section, as do cross-cutting activities that support market uptake.

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