‘effIcieNt Small scale uniT for distributed heAt and hydrogeN generaTion’ (GA 966725)

What about the project

“INSTANT” is a ERC Proof of Concept funded for 18 Months from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme (Grant Agreement No 966725).
The research project will start on July 1st 2021 and it will be coordinated by Prof. Enrico Tronconi and hosted at Politecnico di Milano (Milan – IT) Department of Energy – Laboratory of Catalysis and Catalytic Processes.
Budget: € 150.000

The project task of INSTANT is the development and validation of an efficient catalytic fuel processor as the key component of small scale units for combined heat and power (CHP) generation in residential applications, based on hydrogen-fuel cells and fed by natural gas, air and water. A critical issue of these devices is the intensification of the heat supply in the compact methane steam reformer where hydrogen is generated.

To this purpose we exploit the findings from my ERC AdG project INTENT (GA n. 694910), developing a reformer design based on thermally conductive cellular structures packed with catalyst microparticles. As demonstrated already in INTENT by lab scale tests, the flow independent conductive heat exchange mechanism enables a highly effective power supply to the endothermic catalytic reaction even in the case of low and fluctuating flow rates, as typical of these compact units.

The INSTANT project aims at testing this novel configuration of the fuel processor at a semi-industrial scale.

Indicators that will be evaluated during the test sessions include:

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

Based on the experimental findings, 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, to be used in residential applications and, in perspective, in hydrogen refueling stations for fuel-cell vehicles, thus contributing to the decarbonisation of the EU energy system.