Using hydrogen for carbon capture in heavy industry


While hydrogen is considered as the fuel of the future, it also has a huge potential for application in carbon capture and storage (CCS). Molten-carbonate fuel cells (MCFCs) are high-temperature fuel cells that operate at temperatures of 600°C and have the ability to utilize hydrogen and CO2 to generate heat and power while providing a provision to capture excess CO2. MCFCs can efficiently capture and concentrate carbon dioxide streams from large industrial sources. Combustion exhausts from heavy industry processes can be directed to an MCFC, which produces power while capturing and concentrating carbon dioxide for permanent storage.

This process can capture about 90% of CO2 from industrial exhaust streams, while generating additional power, unlike traditional carbon capture technologies which consume significant power. This is also useful for the heavy industry, where hydrogen could be an option to replace natural gas, such as in creating heat for glass manufacturing or as a feedstock in other processes while generating electricity. This work will include performance optimization and techno-economic analysis of MCFCs for combined heat and power and CCS, which would support an affordable transition of the UK industry towards net-zero carbon emissions.


The student will initially undertake a thorough literature review on existing MCFC and CCS and on ongoing research in hydrogen fuel cells. During this time, the student will develop skills and knowledge of MCFC and CCS and will make a plan for developing a CFD model for an MCFC. This process will allow the student to identify the gap and needs for MCFC and CCS. Once the required skill set is developed, the student will develop a CFD model for an MCFC using COMSOL Multiphysics. The model will then be used to understand transport characteristics and water & thermal management issues followed by the optimization of MCFCs operation and performance. After that, the student will look into the techno-economic analysis for combined heat and power and CCS. Umberto will be used for the techno-economic analysis.

Project Timeline

Year 1

Training, literature review, methodology, and planning. Developing a base-case COSMOL model to simulate various operations of an MCFC for combined heat and power.

Year 2

Analyse various physicochemical phenomena, identify the trade-offs and operation of the various interactions, and optimize MCFC’s performance. Write a journal article to disseminate numerical modelling results.

Year 3

Develop a model using Umberto for looking into the techno-economic analysis for combined heat and power using an MCFC and CCS. Write a journal article to disseminate techno-economic analysis results.

Year 3.5

Thesis preparation and submission.

& Skills

The student will be primarily based in the School of Engineering, Newcastle University. The modeling part will be guided by Dr Das, as he has over 20 years of experience in COMSOL. The student will engage in regular research group meetings, developing research skills and broadening knowledge of ongoing research in fuel cells and CCS. The student’s Personal Training Programme will ensure that they receive the necessary technical and research skills to support their development as an independent researcher. In addition, the student will have opportunities to work with state-of-the-art research facilities elsewhere (such as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA) and working together with pioneer fuel-cell researchers. This will be highly beneficial in providing direct contact with the world-renowned fuel-cell researchers working within the U.S. Department of Energy network. Through this, the student will develop skills associated with managing a collaborative research program in their professional career.

References & further reading

[1] S Ramachandran and U Stimming, Well to Wheel Analysis of Low Carbon Alternatives for Road Traffic, Energy Environ. Sci., 2015.[2] AZ Weber et al., A Critical Review of Modeling Transport Phenomena in Polymer-Electrolyte Fuel Cells, J. Electrochem Soc., 161, F1254-F1299, 2014.[3] PK Das and AZ Weber, Analytical Approach to Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell Performance and Optimization, J. Electroanal. Chem., 604, 72-90, 2007.

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