Metrology for clean hydrogen energy

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the UK’s National Metrology Institute (NMI) with responsibility for developing and maintaining the national primary measurement standards. NPL’s long standing research activities in clean hydrogen are expanding and to ensure that they remain aligned with evolving measurement challenges faced by industry we are seeking representatives from UK companies to join our Industrial Advisory Group (IAG).

Fundamentally, metrology provides confidence that new innovations work, that technologies will operate as expected and that products meet standards. As a hydrogen economy is being developed and deployed at unprecedented speed, NPL scientists and engineers are working to develop the necessary measurement techniques, protocols, modelling tools and standards to ensure that decision makers can make decisions with confidence. In recent years metrology in this area has focused on supporting the development of fuel cells and electrolysers, providing reliable gas quality measurements and developing new capabilities to support the deployment of hydrogen infrastructure.

The focus of fuel cell and electrolyser research and development is on improving performance, minimising degradation, and reducing materials and manufacturing costs. Correspondingly, metrology needs often relate to measurement and prediction of performance and lifetime for materials and devices. There is a need for both improved measurements at the component/device level that more accurately mimic real-life operation, and for detailed measurements of the degradation processes occurring inside operating devices, so that lifetime limitation can be understood and modelled. These measurements are often very challenging due to the inherent complexity of the devices, the very long lifetimes required and because testing requires complicated and expensive equipment. Access to high quality standardised testing facilities and internationally accepted standard test methods will accelerate the adoption of next generation technologies. At the industrial scale, the mass manufacture of new devices now requires the development of new quality control processes and advances in technology digitalisation, for instance the development and parameterisation of digital twins, relies heavily on detailed reliable measurements.

When hydrogen is used for heat and transport applications it is vital that impurities are controlled to a low concentration, otherwise damage to equipment such as fuel cells and boilers may result. Our hydrogen purity measurement service is one of the few, worldwide, that is able to assess sampled hydrogen against the complete ISO 14687:2019 hydrogen quality standard, providing confidence to suppliers and consumers of hydrogen fuel. Furthermore, NPL supplies a range of ISO 17034 accredited Primary Reference Mixtures (PRMs) including bespoke mixtures, which provide traceability for gas quality measurements. NPL’s metrological research in hydrogen quality includes developing new online hydrogen quality sensors; assessing new purification technologies; and improving hydrogen quality standards, for example by assessing the impact that impurities have on fuel cells or developing new sampling techniques.

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