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Air handling system optimisation for Fuel cell applications

Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (AAPS)

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Dr RDB Burke Applications accepted all year round Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Delivering zero emission heavy duty automotive applications is expected to involve the extensive use of fuel cells. Like traditional combustion engines, fuel cells require an air handling system to provide a pressurised flow of oxygen to react with the hydrogen fuel. However, the challenges presented by a fuel cell differ to those presented by traditional Diesel engines. On the one hand, the problem is simplified because there are no longer pulsating flows to deal with. However, there are new challenges caused by the need for oil free air and demanding temperature constraints. The fuel cell has a relatively high inlet pressure requirement combined with a relatively low inlet temperature requirement, which puts a high emphasis on the isentropic efficiency of the compressor. The exhaust from the fuel cell has much lower temperature than a Diesel engine, meaning there is not enough energy to drive the compressor alone, meaning there is a need to electrify the air handling system. These challenges present a number of new design variables which are yet to be fully understood by turbomachinery manufacturers.
In this PhD, the aim will be to establish a deep understanding of the air handling requirements for fuel cells in heavy duty applications. You will start by undertaking a theoretical exercise into the fuel cell itself to fully understand its operating principles and air flow requirements and constraints. You will then look to match these constraints to air handling solutions, considering the breadth of possible configurations, including proposing your own novel configurations where appropriate.
In undertaking this PhD, you will join a team of researchers within the Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS). As part of this team you will be working as part of a £20m Advanced Propulsion Centre/Innovate UK funded programme led by Cummins Turo Technologies. You will also have direct links to a Fuel cell manufacturer.
This project would suit a student with a background in Engineering with a strong interest in mechanical, thermodynamic, electrical, and chemical systems.

This project is offered within the Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (AAPS CDT). The centre aims to create a diverse and stimulating environment where you can deepen your knowledge in your discipline through your PhD whilst giving breath to your skills through collaborations.

Prospective students will be applying for the integrated PhD programme run by the AAPS CDT which includes a one-year MRes (full time) followed by a PhD programme. The MRes course will be conducted as a cohort with a focus on technology, team-working and research skills. On successful completion of the MRes, you will progress to a PhD programme which can be conducted on a full-time or part-time basis.

AAPS is determined to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members. The whole CDT community will come together at specific events during the calendar year, most notably the induction events, workshops, and guest lectures. All new students joining the CDT will be assigned both an academic personal tutor and a student mentor. Each student will be assigned a minimum of 2 academic supervisors at the point of starting their PhD.

Funding is available for four-years (full time equivalent) for Home students.

See our website to apply or for more details (

Funding Notes

AAPS CDT studentships are available on a competition basis for UK students for up to 4 years. Funding will cover UK tuition fees as well as providing maintenance at the UKRI doctoral stipend rate (£15,285 per annum for 2020/21 rate) and a training support fee of £1,000 per annum.

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