Fundamentally, metrology provides confidence that new innovations work, that technologies will operate as expected and that products meet standards. As a hydrogen economy is being developed and deployed at unprecedented speed, NPL scientists and engineers are working to develop the necessary measurement techniques, protocols, modelling tools and standards to ensure that decision makers can make decisions with confidence. In recent years metrology in this area has focused on supporting the development of fuel cells and electrolysers, providing reliable gas quality measurements and developing new capabilities to support the deployment of hydrogen infrastructure.

The focus of fuel cell and electrolyser research and development is on improving performance, minimising degradation, and reducing materials and manufacturing costs. Correspondingly, metrology needs often relate to measurement and prediction of performance and lifetime for materials and devices. There is a need for both improved measurements at the component/device level that more accurately mimic real-life operation, and for detailed measurements of the degradation processes occurring inside operating devices, so that lifetime limitation can be understood and modelled. These measurements are often very challenging due to the inherent complexity of the devices, the very long lifetimes required and because testing requires complicated and expensive equipment. Access to high quality standardised testing facilities and internationally accepted standard test methods will accelerate the adoption of next generation technologies. At the industrial scale, the mass manufacture of new devices now requires the development of new quality control processes and advances in technology digitalisation, for instance the development and parameterisation of digital twins, relies heavily on detailed reliable measurements.

When hydrogen is used for heat and transport applications it is vital that impurities are controlled to a low concentration, otherwise damage to equipment such as fuel cells and boilers may result. Our hydrogen purity measurement service is one of the few, worldwide, that is able to assess sampled hydrogen against the complete ISO 14687:2019 hydrogen quality standard, providing confidence to suppliers and consumers of hydrogen fuel. Furthermore, NPL supplies a range of ISO 17034 accredited Primary Reference Mixtures (PRMs) including bespoke mixtures, which provide traceability for gas quality measurements. NPL’s metrological research in hydrogen quality includes developing new online hydrogen quality sensors; assessing new purification technologies; and improving hydrogen quality standards, for example by assessing the impact that impurities have on fuel cells or developing new sampling techniques.

As energy infrastructure is repurposed for hydrogen applications, measurement will be core to providing confidence in long term safety and reliability. As hydrogen is introduced into large scale infrastructure the ability to detect fugitive hydrogen emissions will be critical, both for safety and economic purposes but also to assess possible climate impacts.  NPL is developing methods to enable reliable emission and leak detection measurements in the field. Compatibility of new and existing energy infrastructure with hydrogen is crucial, so NPL is working on standardised test methods to assess hydrogen embrittlement and permeation through containment materials.

NPL scientists are always seeking new measurement challenges and to support this hold IAG meetings every six months. The next meeting of the Clean Hydrogen IAG will be held 29th March 2022 with the option to participate online or in person at NPL’s site in Teddington, SW London. The purpose of the group is to review the technical outputs of research performed as part of the UK government funded National Measurement System and provide guidance on the current and future measurement challenges of UK industry. The meetings are an excellent opportunity to discuss the cutting-edge measurement science being carried out by NPL scientists, steer the direction of NPL’s future research and network with industry peers.  If you are a UK industry representative with a technical background and interested in joining the IAG then please register here.