High Temperature PEM Fuel Cell

Polymer Fuel Cells

A fuel cell converts the chemically bound energy of a fuel directly into electricity. This allows fuel cells to have a higher efficiency than traditional generators and power plants. There are different types of fuel cells, each with a different area of application. Thus, solid oxide fuel cells  have a high operation temperature and is well suited for stationary applications, while polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) have a lower operation temperature and can be used in, e.g., cars. However, traditional PEMFCs can only use very pure hydrogen as a fuel and the low operation temperature of around 80 °C makes it hard to get rid of the surplus heat.

At the Department of Energy Conversion and Storage we primarily work on high-temperature PEMFC (HT-PEMFC), where the electrolyte is polybenzimidazole doped with phosphoric acid to create ionic conductivity. This makes it possible to operate at above 100 °C since the membrane does not need to be humidified. This fact greatly simplifies both the water
management and the thermal management of the system. Another notable advantage of high temperature PEMFC (HT-PEMFC) is the high tolerance towards fuel impurities like carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide. These properties make the auxiliary components of the fuel cell system simpler and cheaper. Two promising applications of HT-PEMFC is for transportation and for micro-CHP (combined heat and power) for single houses.

We have recently demonstrated the world’s lowest degrading fuel cell of its kind with a degradation of only 0.00008 %/h in a 9000 h test. Another remarkable result is the discovery of a promising iron carbide based catalyst without noble metals. The research on HT-PEMFC benefits from a strong collaboration with several Danish companies, including Danish Power Systems, which manufactures cells and membrane electrode assemblies, and Serenergy, which makes methanol fueled systems for remote power.

Important research topics are:

  • Polymer and membrane development
  • Novel electrode structures using, e.g., electrospinning
  • Design and synthesis of catalysts with reduced content of platinum-group metals
  • Identification of degradation mechanisms using long-term and accelerated testing.


Qingfeng Li
DTU Energy
+45 45 25 23 18