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Fuel cells and hydrogen technology


VTT fuel cell research supports industry product development by maintaining a development platform comprising a large selection of research facilities, a selection of developed modelling tools and know-how encompassing different technologies over the whole business chain.

A large network, especially among universities and industry within Finland and Europe, can be utilised to form research groups of high competence to solve different problems. VTT actively participates in European projects as well as European and international networks.

Currently, the main research areas are SOFC, PEFC and micro fuel cells, including systems, applications, demonstrations, stacks, components and materials.


Fuel cell technology is predicted to create a fast growing global market especially in the areas of power production, transport, communication and portable applications. The Fuel Cell research at VTT helps the companies in the fuel cell value chain to develop products for the global market, identify partners and applications and to co operate, both nationally and internationally.

References and merits

VTT fuel cell research is based on a large network of partners both internationally and within Finland. The principle is to realise most projects in cooperation with both Finnish and international partners.

In Finland, we cooperate with several universities, mainly Helsinki University of Technology, Tampere University of Technology, Lappeenranta University of Technology and Åbo Akademi. We have a large number of industrial partners, 33 at present. Most of our domestic projects are funded jointly by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes), industrial partners and VTT.

VTT has a strong participation in European programmes. We participate in four FP6 projects:


VTT has also participated actively in the writing of European hydrogen- and fuel cell research strategies and the FP7 implementation plan. Bilateral cooperation is also active particularly with France (CEA), Germany (FZJ) and Netherlands (ECN).

The international exchange of information is mainly organised through participation in the work of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Advanced Fuel Cells Implementation Agreement. VTT participates in several working groups, particularly PEM, SOFC, Stationary applications and portable applications.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC)

The purpose of the SOFC research is to develop new technology and to provide industrial enterprises with information that supports development work on SOFC-based power plants. It also supports the development of balance of plant (BOP) components and application of SOFC power plants. Another purpose is to increase understanding of the fundamentals of SOFC science and systems. This work can be divided into several focus areas:

Steady-state and dynamic system modelling and simulation are performed at both the component and system level. Modelling is used in system design and optimisation, automation and control design and testing, failure analysis, and state estimation.

In cell and stack research the main focus is on degradation issues and fuel component studies. VTT is capable of conducting long-term testing in well-defined gas atmospheres, including insertions of fuel and oxidant impurities. Measurement systems enable both in-situ degradation and contamination examinations as well as post mortal cell analysis.

In stack development, the main focus is to develop verified stack layouts in multi-kilowatt stack sizes. Research and development is focused on chromium evaporation barrier coatings on steel interconnects, on sealing materials and on stack design issues.

Fuel production chains are assessed in order to ensure that the most relevant fuels for SOFC power plants are chosen. Main issues to consider include the availability of fuel, composition and impurities, as well as fuel cleaning and processing for SOFC.

In system development and demonstration the final goal is to gain long-term experience from a highly integrated 5-10 kWe SOFC CHP system connected to gas, heat and electricity grids. Technology development contains the most important balance of plant components, such as automation and control system, fuel reformer, after burner, heat exchangers, insulation, high temperature blowers, and current conditioning devices.

Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell (PEFC)

The development work on polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEFC) technology can be divided into the following categories: application of PEM power sources, development of power sources, and development of materials and components for fuel cells. Possible applications include the powering of mining machines and military vehicles and harbour transporters. Other possible applications involve backup power and battery chargers. One of our tasks is to demonstrate these applications.

The purpose of the system development is to deepen competence in FC power source construction. The development of control systems and the transformation of electricity aim to create basic solutions applicable to the serial production of PEMFC power sources.

VTT develops all major PEMFC stack components to improve the durability and decrease the cost of PEMFC stacks. With the exception of membranes, the components we develop include catalysts, gas diffusion layers, bipolar plates, end plates and current collectors. The key competencies applied in the development work are molecular modelling of catalyst structures, production of metallic nanoparticles, dispersion of carbon nanotubes into different matrix polymers, the synthesis and application of conductive polymers as well as surface treatment and corrosion protection of different metals and alloys.

Enzyme catalysed & printed fuel cells

Printed electronics with an integrated power source has remarkable market potential in several mass-market consumer products such as package-integrated functionalities. The power source should be biodegradable or possible to incinerate with normal household waste. Additionally, the production costs should be reasonable. As an alternative power source the miniaturized biological fuel cell has the potential to be developed to meet these demands. The low peak current capacity of enzymatic fuel cells can be improved by integrating cells to a printed capacitor. The main goal of our research is to develop a printable, fully enzymatic biofuel cell based on the use of enzymes as catalyst on both cathode and anode electrodes. The power supply development is aimed at meeting the demands of, for instance, active RFID tags.

The first challenges encountered with the enzymatic electrodes were related to the maintenance of enzymatic activity in the printable, conductive ink. Suitable water-soluble inks from commercial sources were screened and further optimised or experimentally developed in order to obtain printed, enzyme electrodes expressing optimised enzymatic activity as well as good electrochemical properties. Additionally, the use of conductive polymers as an immobilisation matrix has been studied.

Additional information

Jari Kiviaho
Senior Principal Scientist
+358 20 722 5298