Dr Mohammed Ismail and EngD student Florence Lee from the Translational Energy Research Centre, part of the University of Sheffield’s Energy Institute, recently traveled to Japan to work alongside partner researchers at Kyushu University.

A travel research grant sponsored by the Royal Society and Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) enabled the research team to exchange knowledge about hydrogen fuel cells with world-leading experts, furthering their own study and identifying future industry partnerships.

Polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) use hydrogen to generate power with zero-emissions and no need for fossil fuels, which makes them an excellent candidate to replace current fossil fuel-dependent technologies, particularly in transport.

However, current PEFCs are expensive to make and have limited capacity. Dr Mohammed Ismail and Florence Lee’s research focuses on trying to innovate and test new designs and materials for the various components of the fuel cell to make it more efficient and cheaper to produce.

To further their research on synthesizing and testing non-precious catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells, the team visited our international partners at Kyushu University to collaborate with its world-leading fuel cell and hydrogen research group. Kyushu University hosts unique equipment which can test different polymers and catalysts for fuel cells, as well as new techniques for coating, which meant the researchers could test their ideas on a larger scale.

Speaking about the trip, Florence Lee said: “Visiting Kyushu University was a unique opportunity to exchange ideas and new techniques with others in my field. The knowledge exchange that has taken place has inspired me, and even given me a new tangent for my research, as I’m now going to compare two different methods of coating the electrodes of the fuel cell. This trip will really influence my output and help to find solutions that will potentially make fuel cells a viable option for zero-emissions energy.”

The trip also included a visit to the annual Energy 2020 conference. Dr. Mohammed Ismail met with our partner at Kyushu University, Professor Stephen Lyth, an internationally-recognised expert on fuel cell catalysts, to set plans to further improve the jointly-developed non-precious graphene-based catalysts that have shown a comparable performance to that of the costly platinum-based catalysts, rendering fuel cell technology more accessible and more effective. During the conference, Dr Ismail and Prof Lyth met with some potential Japanese partners to discuss forming a consortium to work on alternative renewable fuels and carbon dioxide conversion technologies.

Dr. Mohammed Ismail said: “Working closely with our international partners helps to further our research and move the world closer to zero-emissions through hydrogen fuel cells and carbon dioxide conversion technologies. Currently, results in our research are promising, and it’s exciting to see the progress being made at Kyushu University.

“The Translational Energy Research Centre, once completed, will help us to push forward the research we’re undertaking and bring together industry partners to help the UK push towards a target of zero emissions by 2050.”

three adults stand in a laboratory

Dr Mohammed Ismail, Florence Lee and Professor Stephen Lyth stand in the labs at Kyushu University

Get in touch: terc@sheffield.ac.uk