FluidCELL Final Summary

FluidCELL project has ended in July 2018. FluidCELL was a project focussing on developing a high efficient PEM fuel cell micro Combined Heat and Power cogeneration system (net energy efficiency > 40% and overall efficiency > 90%) for decentralised off-grid applications. The new m-CHP was based on a novel bio-ethanol fluidised bed catalytic membrane reformer and the most advance technology at the fuel cell level. The main focus of FluidCELL was to develop a new catalytic membrane reformer for pure hydrogen production (≈ 3.5 Nm3/h) from bioethanol reforming in order to intensify the hydrogen production process through the integration of reforming and hydrogen purification in one single unit. The novel reactor was expected to be more efficient than the state-of-the-art technology due to an optimal design aimed at circumventing mass and heat transfer resistances. Besides, the design and optimization of the subcomponents for the BoP for the integration of the membrane reformer to the fuel cell stack was also addressed.

The project brought together 9 partners covering the whole value chain, ranging from catalyst and membrane developers, reactor and system (BoP) developers, stack developers, service providers and end users. After more than four years of intense collaboration between the partners, FluidCELL arrived at the end. Main achievements are detailed hereafter.

Novel catalyst and membranes for ATR membrane reactor:

An active and highly stable catalytic formulation was searched for oxidative steam reforming of ethanol in fluidized bed. Different catalysts were tested and the most suitable formulation (Pt-Ni/CeO2-SiO2) was employed for a 400 h-stability test in the fluidized bed. A very interesting behaviour was observed: after an initial catalyst deactivation, a new stationary condition was reached with ethanol conversion and H2 yield of almost 80% the equilibrium value. The above promising formulation was properly characterized to correlate the physiochemical properties with activity as well as stability. 7.4 dm3 of filler (CeO2-SiO2) and 2 dm3 of Pt-Ni/CeO2-SiO2 catalyst were prepared for the catalytic tests in the prototype.

In addition, Pd-based membranes by direct deposition of ultra-thin (< 2 µm) and thin (< 6 µm) dense metal layers onto long ceramic tubular supports were also developed. The H2 permeance of the 0.46 µm thick membrane was extremely high (1.53 x 10-5 mol m-2 s-1 Pa-1) but showed a relatively low H2/N2 ideal perm-selectivity (close to 50). When the thickness was increased from 0.46 to 1.17 or 1.29 µm, the H2 permeance was reduced to 0.9 x 10-5 mol m-2 s-1 Pa-1 but H2/N2 ideal perm-selectivity increased to around 2,500. In these membranes, defects in the porous support were significant which can explain the difference in selectivity. Despite the high permeation and long-term stability of these Pd-Ag supported membranes, the selectivity of the membranes was not high enough for the membrane reactor. Thin film (≈5 µm) Pd-Ag membranes developed by direct simultaneous Pd and Ag electroless plating (ELP) were selected for the prototype to ensure membrane stability under fluidization regime and ideal H2/N2 perm-selectivy above 8,000. Selective layers were deposited onto asymmetric alumina 50 cm long porous supports with thicker wall (10/4 mm o.d./i.d.). Overall 40 membranes were manufactured.

Membrane reactor a lab-scale:

A fluidized bed multi-membrane reactor (for testing of 5 membranes) was designed and constructed by TU/e for SMR/ATR of methane at different operating conditions (p, T). First, membrane- catalyst interaction and integration strategies for the different components (i.e. sealing) were investigated. Afterward, membranes by TECNALIA were integrated in the reactor and tested in fluidized conditions showing that equilibrium conditions could be achieved with hydrogen recovery up to 66%. Experimental results were used to validate a fluidized bed membrane reactor model allowing the overall membrane reformer design and its main characteristic. Additionally, new sealing techniques were studied for ceramic supported membranes.

Design and manufacturing of novel ATR reformer:

A novel bio-ethanol autothermal membrane reactor has been designed, manufactured and tested. The reactor was designed for an output of 3.2 Nm3/h with a Hydrogen Recovery Factor (HRF) of 76.8 %. The reactor employs 37 membranes of 400 mm length. The compact design aimed to meet the targets for efficient hydrogen production either as a stand-alone reactor or integrated within the micro-CHP system. Operating conditions of the reactor were 12 bar(a) at 500 °C. Steam was used as sweep gas flowing through the permeate side of the membranes. The reactor was designed to operate at partial load down to 40 % of its nominal value.

The pilot scale reactor was initially tested with pure H2 permeation and later thoroughly tested under ATR conditions. The results confirm the benefit of using MR, able to exceed the thermodynamic equilibrium constrain, produce more hydrogen and bypass the H2 separation step.

During the tests, a lower hydrogen permeance was observed in the membranes when compared to the values obtained in lab scale tests. Despite the lower hydrogen permeation, the pilot scale bio-ethanol ATR membrane reformer based on in-situ hydrogen extraction had never been constructed nor tested at relevant conditions as implemented in FluidCELL. This makes such fuel processor first of its class at pilot scale. A detailed model of the membrane reactor was developed by POLIMI, calibrated against experimental data from lab-scale reactors, and used to simulate the off-design performance of the prototype.

Fuel Cell Stack:

Several Fuel Cell components were extensively tested in single cells, coupled with modelling for operation understanding, and concomitantly in short stacks (8 cells) including measurements of local current distribution. All tests were conducted in wide ranges of operating conditions selected by the consortium to help dimensioning and designing system operation. Additional work was conducted with the analysis of experimental data and modelling on fuel cell components.

Following the validation of the components with the short-stack tests, the fuel cell prototype (120-cells stack) was assembled and tested at CEA on a test bench for conditioning and validation of performance in some specific conditions, particularly at low current or low hydrogen flow. The PEMFC model developed by POLIMI was useful to simulate the recirculation of high/medium/low-purity hydrogen, depending on the membranes selectivity, and to find the optimal operation in each condition.

Integration and validation in the CHP system

The activities during last period were focused on the design of the best control strategy to manage the system properly and efficiently. The selection and procurement of the suitable BoP components was done to integrate the fuel processor and the stack in the easiest way. Costs, performances and materials were considered. The fuel processor was transported to ICI for the integration with the fuel cell stack to start the long-term testing of the complete m-CHP system.

The m-CHP system was fully integrated and ready for testing: Unfortunately,

it was not possible to test the fuel processor and the fuel cells stack as a combined unit but only separately. The main reason is that the membrane reactor was not able to produce the desired quality and amount of hydrogen for the minimum time to have a stable operation system and the hydrogen flow rate was too low for feeding the stack module.

Life cycle assessment:

The environmental impacts of the FluidCELL system have been calculated. The FluidCELL system was also compared to other m-CHP systems using other PEM FC technologies, conventional m-CHP with various fuels and systems where the electricity and heat are produced separately by conventional grid/source or renewable source.

The LCA results obtained showed a very high contribution of the bioethanol production and delivery for all indicators. Various sensitivity analyses were performed: on the bioethanol type (feedstock crop used, purity and delivery distance), on the efficiency of the system over the time considering fuel cell decay, on the fuel cell area and fuel processor membrane. The sensitivity analyses on bioethanol showed that the use of second generation bioethanol is an interesting way to reduce the overall impacts and that depending on the distance from bioethanol production place to the use place, the less impacting bioethanol can correspond to various dilution. The sensitivity analyses on the system design showed that the younger the system, the better the efficiency, the lower the environmental impacts, and that increase the fuel cell area enable to decrease the impacts while doubling the fuel processor membrane area does not. Based on the results of the detailed LCA, key leads for environmental performance optimization were identified: all the elements improving the efficiency in absolute and over time can improve the environmental performance, the type of bioethanol to use should be selected considering the feedstock used, the origin, the transportation, the infrastructure could be decreased trying to reduce the amount of Pt, Pd and Ru use (while keeping the same efficiency), or reducing the weight of the big metallic pieces.


The activities on “exploitation and dissemination” were mainly focused on the implementation of the dissemination and exploitation strategy and development of the Plan for Use and Dissemination of Foreground (PUDF). A website was set-up with both secured and public sections to allow dissemination of news on the developments from FluidCELL as well as public deliverables. Periodically updated non-confidential presentations were published in the project’s website. Moreover, periodic newsletters were distributed along our network of industries and research/academic institutions, and different organizations, associations, technology platforms relevant to FluidCELL applications. Various contributions have been presented in international conferences and in peer-reviewed journals.

A plan for use and dissemination of foreground was created. An exploitation plan based on an industrial roadmap was set-up. An assessment of potentials and markets of the m-CHP system was carried out, where the market size and penetration strategies were addressed. A final exploitation workshop was organized at the site of the industry partner ICI Caldaie. Stakeholders from several nationalities from industry and academy participated to the workshop.

The complete FluidCELL final publishable summary report can be downloaded here. Other public reports and documents can be downloaded under dissemination public web-page.

Advanced m-CHP fuel CELL system based on a novel bio-ethanol Fluidized bed membrane reformer


 Project Duration: 52 months          Starting date: 01-April-2014

Project Coordinator: José Luis Viviente, TECNALIA, Spain

Grant agreement nº.: 621196

The FluidCELL project is supported the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) for the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative under grant agreement n° 621196