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Enhancement of durability and reliability of stationary PEM and SOFC systems by implementation and integration of advanced diagnostic and control tools


The project should develop and demonstrate a new generation of robust, general and cost-effective prognostic and control tool for both PEMFC and SOFC systems primarily for μ-CHP and energy generation (e.g. remote/isolated areas, backup). The integration of advanced monitoring and diagnostic algorithms for BOP and stack should be considered as the starting point for the assessment of the state-of-the-health of the whole FC system. The challenge of developing and integrating advanced prognostic and control algorithms ensuring high accuracy, reliability and generalizability for both technologies should be clearly addressed.

The project should address the following actions:

  • Develop an advanced monitoring, diagnostic, prognostic and control (MDPC) tool, which should embed all the functionalities required for proper integration with both stack and BOP components;
  • Guarantee high flexibility and generalizability to apply the tool on both PEMFC and SOFC, with limited effort in terms of time and costs;
  • Apply optimal sensor placement techniques to solve the trade-off between costs (i.e. number of sensors) and effective on-line monitoring, thus maximizing the information level on running systems (stack and BOP);
  • Implement approaches that suitably combine conventional measurements with more advanced techniques (e.g. EIS, THD, PRBS) able to improve performance and durability by detecting BOP malfunctions and stack faults and applying suitable control counteraction;
  • Developed monitoring and control tools with functions that could be used for future integration of FC systems with smart grids and application for remote management in the frame of VPP;
  • Test PEMFC and SOFC systems with embedded prototypes of MDPC tool for field operation, aiming at validation by means of dedicated experimental campaigns in operational environment.

The project should implement hardware solutions already available along with conventional sensors and actuators; therefore, the research of new hardware for monitoring, diagnostic, prognostic and control is not in scope of this topic. The implementation of the MDPC tool should be independent from SOFC or PEMFC system configuration, with little effort for adaptation.

The project should start with TRL 4 and conclude at TRL 7 for prognostic and control algorithms. Although, some components, solutions and algorithms have already achieved TRL above 5 or 6, their integration should lead to an overall TRL of 7 as first step towards certification and industrialization for commercialization.

Any safety-related event that may occur during execution of the project shall be reported to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) dedicated mailbox, which manages the European hydrogen safety reference database, HIAD and the Hydrogen Event and Lessons LEarNed database, HELLEN.

Test activities should collaborate and use the protocols developed by the JRC Harmonisation Roadmap (see section 3.2.B ""Collaboration with JRC – Rolling Plan 2019""), in order to benchmark performance of components and allow for comparison across different projects.

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution of EUR 3 million would allow the specific challenges to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

A maximum of 1 project may be funded under this topic.

Expected duration of the project is 4 years with at least 1 year of experimental campaign in operational environment, to test the MDPC tool on both technologies. Testing should be conducted for at least two PEM and two SOFC systems. The cost of the systems for the testing are not in scope of the topic.

PEM and SOFC systems for stationary applications have reached a maturity level that guarantees their field operation for micro-Combined Heat and Power (μ-CHP) and energy generation (e.g. remote/isolated areas, backup). However, a step forward is needed to improve their availability, reliability and durability together with a reduction in operational cost.

Some EU/FCH 2 JU funded projects have already successfully carried out research and innovation activities focusing on monitoring and diagnostics of PEMFCs (e.g. D-CODE, SAPPHIRE, HEALTH-CODE, GIANTLEAP) and SOFCs (e.g. GENIUS, DESIGN, DIAMOND, INSIGHT) with a preliminary attention to stack lifetime and prognostics, paving the way towards advanced control. Each of these projects proposed monitoring and diagnostic solutions for either balance-of-plant (BOP) or stack. Conventional techniques have been implemented for BOP components of SOFC that may be easily extended to PEM systems. On the other hand, several approaches have been effectively tested for field monitoring and diagnostics of both PEM and SOFC stacks, they range from simple methodologies up to advanced ones, such as Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS), Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) and Pseudo-Random Binary Signals (PRBS).

A wide expertise has been built and is available among a large research and industrial community, with a well-recognized EU leadership in the field. Nevertheless, a comprehensive tool that could embed all these functions, as derived from the research carried on PEM and SOFC stacks and systems, is not available yet.

Today the state-of-the-health (SOH) of both stack and system can be effectively monitored, whereas prognostic and control actions are not yet considered in a holistic and integrated manner. Indeed, the combination of expected lifetime (RUL) information and adaptive control would help to maintain performance, keep durability and availability in the planned maintenance timeframe or even support its intelligent scheduling (i.e. predictive maintenance). Moreover, a generalized approach applicable equally to both technologies is still missing along with a dedicated experimental campaign, able to prove its validity and reliability during systems long and real operation.

The challenge of this topic is the integration of available monitoring and diagnostic techniques along with the development of both prognostic algorithms and advanced control techniques to be all implemented for enhancement of durability and reliability of stationary PEM and SOFC systems.

A proper integration of MDPC functions within PEM and SOFC products will improve performance reproducibility and reliability, and overall leading to more profitable fuel cell systems by reducing the TCO and accelerating its market penetration.

It is expected that such a tool, once implemented in the embedded control of the units, could improve the field performance in terms of extending useful lifetime in real environment by at least 25%, keeping an average efficiency of 35% until the end of life.

Similar to lifetime, two further positive impacts are expected in terms of increased of power availability (≥98%) and reliability (MTBF < 45,000 h) of both stack and BOP components to target 15 years of operation.

The MDPC functionality should not increase the overall system manufacturing cost by more than 3%.

The tool will allow to implement centralized monitoring and predictive maintenance strategies to optimize service costs and support continuous reduction of service costs. The tool shall contribute to the performance improvement of the next generation of stationary FC with enhanced functions, which could be easily integrated with smart grids.

Type of action: Research and Innovation Action

The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter 3.3 and in the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018– 2020 which apply mutatis mutandis.