The European Commission finances the tests on an innovative hydrogen reactor made in Polimi

Compact, more efficient and less invasive from the point of view of environmental impact

With the ERC PoC INSTANT project, prof. Tronconi of the Department of Energy obtains new funding to explore the potential of a compact reactor, more efficient and less invasive from the point of view of environmental impact

European project INSTANT (effIcieNt Small-scale uniT for distributed heAt and hydrogeN generaTion), led by Prof. Enrico Tronconi of the Energy Department aims to develop an efficient catalytic fuel processor as the key component of a compact unit to produce hydrogen. Based on hydrogen-fuel cells and fed by natural gas, air and water, researchers will develop units for combined heat and power (CHP) generation that may be used in small-scale applications, such as the cogeneration of heat and electricity for domestic residential use or refueling hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles. Sustainable on-site and on-demand hydrogen generation will reduce or eliminate the transport and storage costs associated with traditional production technologies, improving their energy efficiency and carbon footprint.

INSTANT, funded with 150,000 € under the Horizon2020 program, is a Proof of Concept ERC project that stems from the AdG ERC INTENT project. INTENT developed and validated the concept for a new generation of catalytic reactors to produce energy carriers, with a revised design based on thermally conductive cellular structures packed with catalyst microparticles. With INSTANT, researchers aim to test this novel configuration of the fuel processor on a semi-industrial scale (TRL5). Indicators which will be evaluated during the test sessions include:

  1. H2 productivity for a given catalyst load (target = +30%);
  2. start-up time to full load (target = -30%);
  3. response time to a load change (target = -30%).

Based on the experimental outcomes, INSTANT will also assess the potential for reducing the footprint of the CHP unit, the system volume being currently one of the main constraints for domestic CHP applications, as well as the overall production cost, including life-cycle costs.

If successful, INSTANT will pave the way to a new generation of CHP systems based on hydrogen fuel cells and explore the commercial and social potential of their research work.

Cover photo by Mihály Köles on Unsplash

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