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Fuel Cell Technologies

Fuel Cell plates

Oak Ridge National Laboratory performs research that addresses the barriers facing the development and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cells, with the ultimate goals of decreasing our dependence on oil, reducing carbon emissions, and enabling clean, reliable power generation.

Through collaborative research and development, ORNL is creating materials and technologies to establish a hydrogen infrastructure and for hydrogen storage onboard vehicles. As part of these efforts, researchers are developing steel-concrete composite underground storage tanks and low-cost carbon fiber.

ORNL is the Department of Energy’s (DOE) leading resource for characterization of fuel cell materials through electron microscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Researchers also conduct studies of infrastructure deployment scenarios and fuel cell vehicle market analysis to provide data for industry leaders and policy makers to use in strategic decision-making.

 Other areas of research include:

  • production of hydrogen from domestic resources
  • minimizing environmental impacts
  • conversion of hydrogen to electrical power
  • use of hydrogen to power vehicles
  • understanding the interactions among system components
  • energy efficiency
  • related  manufacturing processes, and
  • safety assurance and standards development for domestic and international production, distribution, storage, and utilization of hydrogen.

ORNL’s Fuel Cell Technologies Program works in partnership with industry, academia, and other national laboratories to support DOE’s Fuel Cell Technologies Program within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Program coordinates the activities that address hydrogen technologies among the DOE offices of EERE, Fossil EnergyNuclear Energy, and Science.

Fuel cell evaluation lab

Fuel Cell Evaluation Facility

Fuel cell characterization and evaluation at the National Transportation Research Center is aimed at supporting the development of this technology by analyzing fuel cell behavior under typical operating conditions. The five fuel cell test stands are fully automated to control flow rates, humidity, electronic resistance, and temperature. An environmental chamber is available for evaluation down to -40°C, and a wide range of fuel cells can be evaluated from small-scale prototype fuel cells, less than 5 cm2; to large-scale, full-size systems up to 3 kW.  Electrochemical analytical tools are available for measuring polarization curves, implementing drive cycles, performing cyclic voltammetry, impedance spectroscopy, and supplying up to 80 A and 3 V for regenerable fuel cell operation (electrolysis).  Additionally, the research facility is equipped with long-term battery backup systems to ensure uninterrupted power during durability evaluations.