Delaware Researchers Part of Fuel Cell Team

University of Delaware (UD) scientists are part of a team headed by Nuvera Fuel Cells Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, that has won a $5 million U.S. Department of Energy grant for research and development of fuel cells.

The funding will support UD research on polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), which have many potential benefits for transportation applications. Among those benefits are increased fuel efficiency, lowered harmful emissions and a reduction of the world’s dependence on petroleum, said Michael H. Santare, professor of mechanical engineering, who is leading the efforts at UD with Anette M. Karlsson, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. However, he said technical barriers must be overcome before PEMFCs can be commercially successful on a large scale. One of the most challenging issues for PEMFC-powered vehicles is start-up and shut down in cold temperatures. Because water transport through the membrane is an essential part of the operation of the fuel cell, sub-freezing temperatures can impose large stresses on the system as the water freezes, Santare said. These stresses in turn can cause premature mechanical failure of the fuel cell. If water remains in the system after shut down, it could freeze and further stress the system. “The Department of Energy is committed to breaking our addiction to oil by creating a diverse portfolio of clean, affordable and domestically produced energy choices,” U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said in announcing the award, part of $100 million in grants announced by the agency. “We expect hydrogen to play an integral role in our energy portfolio, and we are eager to see hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road in the near future.”

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