JRC-IET Experimental Facilities


1. Fuel Cell Test facility

Fuel Cell test facility

The Fuel Cell Testing facility was established to support developments in Regulation, Codes and Standards through the validation of testing procedures and measurement methodologies for the performance assessment of fuel cells. It will also have a reference function in the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative for pre-normative research and performance verification. The facility allows testing of Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell stacks, components and entire systems for up to 100 kW electrical power in stationary and transport applications. The performance is tested under simulated environmental conditions including temperature from (-40 to 60 ºC), relative humidity (up to 95 %), and simulated road vibrations, and shocks by means of a special table with six degrees of freedom at frequencies up to 250 Hz,. This combination of features is rarely found in similar facilities in industry and academia worldwide and constitutes a significant asset for pre-normative research.

Fuel Cell environmental testing chamber

Fuel cells produce electricity by combining hydrogen fuel and an oxidant (oxygen or air) electrochemically in a more energy-efficient and environment-friendly way than today´s modern combustion-based power technologies. However, fuel cell technology is not yet mature and needs to be further developed. To assess and validate technology improvements, commonly agreed measures for system efficiency, such as power density, dynamic behaviour and durability are indispensable. These in turn require harmonisation of testing procedures for entire fuel cell systems and system components for different applications (stationary, transportation and portable). At present, such harmonisation is lacking, and this also applies for assessment of fuel cell performance against user requirements. In practice, many developers have drawn up their own test protocols to meet their needs and those of their customers. Harmonisation of testing procedures and methodologies is indispensable for smooth and widespread introduction of fuel cells into the market, and for providing customers with a reliable and trustworthy basis for comparing the performance of fuel cells to that of other power generation technologies.

The Institute for Energy and Transport (IET) of the European Commission´s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Petten, the Netherlands has designed and built a state-of-the-art fuel cell testing facility to support and facilitate the development and harmonisation of fuel cell testing procedures in transport and stationary applications in the EU. The facility allows comprehensive testing and performance evaluation of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, stacks and systems in terms of energy efficiency, durability, reliability and emissions at a scale of up to 100 kWe.

In the facility electrical, thermal and environmental performance can be investigated over a wide range of power loads in off grid and gridconnected configuration. This includes steadystate and transient response characteristics (start-up, shutdown, load following) typical forpower demand in stationary applications and in propulsion and auxiliary power applicationsfor road, air & marine transportation such as passenger cars, buses, trucks, recreational crafts,ships, and aircrafts. The facility is capable of testing fuel cells operating on hydrogen as well as on simulated reformate gas from a variety of fuels. Continuous monitoring of system emissions can be carried out using state-of-theart gas analysers. The facility is equipped with up-to-date control, monitoring and data acquisition equipment and software for automated control of test parameters and acquisition of process, performance and safety data, making it suitable for extended durability testing.

The facility has the following capabilities:

(1) Baseline Performance Characterisation

  • Fuel cell leak-tight testing for operational safety investigations
  • Operating fuel cells on various simulated hydrogen fuels (with deliberate controlled additions of fuel impurities)
  • Operating fuel cells on various fuel/oxidant relative humidity
  • Dynamic changes in anode/cathode stoichiometry and system pressure caused by ambient pressure variations (simulating stack altitude testing)
  • Compositional and emissions analysis of the in- and outlets of the oxidant fuel, streams

(2) Efficiency Characterisation

  • Fuel cell testing in load-following mode for performance characterisation in terms of power density, electrical and thermal efficiency
  • Performance testing of fuel cell power systems in off grid and grid-connected configuration
  • Evaluating heat-recovery capabilities of fuel cell systems under various thermal load scenarios in steady-state and transient conditions

(3) Characterisation of performance under simulated environments

  • Testing fuel cell systems under simulated environmental conditions including temperature (-40 to 60 ºC) and relative humidity (up to 95 %)
  • Simulating shock and vibration with six degrees of freedom at frequencies up to 250 Hz, and on-line evaluation of their effects on fuel cell performance

Combination of the above features is rarely found in similar facilities in industry and academia worldwide and constitutes a significant asset for pre-normative research aimed at harmonisation of fuel cell testing procedures and methodologies, thereby supporting European and international standardisation efforts in the field.

(4) Future expansion

  • On-line evaluation of fuel processor performance in terms of fuel conversion efficiency and emissions
  • Continuous monitoring of thermodynamic balances of an entire energy conversion chain consisting of reformer, fuel cell and grid inverter
  • Info Sheet Putting Fuel Cells to the Test (pdf) [EN] - [NL] - [FR] - [IT]


2. High Pressure Gas Testing Facility

High Pressure Gas Testing Facility

The JRC-IET uses the Gas Testing Facility (GasTeF) for carrying out tests on high pressure vehicle tanks for hydrogen (H2) or natural gas (CH4). The test consists of a fast filling (in less than 5 minutes) at the refuelling station followed by an emptying phase representing gas consumption. This test is repeated several hundred times to simulate the typical life of tanks. During cycling, various parameters are monitored, such as temperature and deformation of the tanks as well the possible leakage or permeation of hydrogen, to evaluate their long term performance.

Storage of gases under pressure, including hydrogen, is a rather well-known technique. However the use of hydrogen tanks in vehicles, and in particular the challenge of using very high pressures, requires new safety and performance studies. The JRC-IET uses the Gas Testing Facility (GasTeF) for carrying out tests on high pressure vehicle tanks for hydrogen (H2) or natural gas (CH4). Typical tests are:

High Pressure Gas Testing Facility

Cycling tests: Vehicle tanks are repeatedly fast-filled using real gas and emptied slowly at least 1000 times to simulate their lifetime in a road vehicle. The maximum pressure is 350 bar and the filling time is less than 3 minutes. During this cycling process, the tank is monitored for leaks and permeation rates using a gas chromatograph. The maximum pressure will be increased to 700 bar in the near future.

Permeation tests: Tanks are filled up to 700 bar and the permeation of the system is measured as a function of time. It is possible to control ambient and tank temperatures up to at least 85ºC.

The testing of other high-pressure components such as valves and pipes is also possible.

  • Info Sheet Hydrogen Safety-Storage (pdf) [EN] - [NL] - [FR] - [IT]


3. Hydrogen Sensor Testing Facility

Hydro Sensor Testing Facility

The Sensor Testing Facility (SenTeF) assesses the performance of hydrogen sensors under a wide range of environmental conditions. Hydrogen can not be detected by human senses making the use of suitable detection devices (sensors) necessary. Since hydrogen leaks can be hazardous if not detected quickly reliable detection systems need to be tested, and their performance validated so that they can be safely deployed wherever hydrogen is produced, stored, distributed or used. In collaboration with international and European partners, the facility is used in interlaboratory experimental programmes aimed at preparing guidelines for testing hydrogen sensors, assessing their performance and reliability and providing feedback on the results to sensor manufacturers and end users.

This unique, (in house designed) gas sensor testing facility can be used to test any type of gas sensors in temperature ranges of -40ºC to 120ºC, from dry gasses to 100% humidity, and with additions of many contaminants such as CO, or alcohol.

  • Info Sheet Hydrogen Safety-Storage (pdf) [EN] - [NL] - [FR] - [IT]
  • Info Sheet HydEn for Tomorrow 2012 (pdf) [EN] - [NL] - [FR] - [IT]


4. Solid-state Hydrogen Storage Testing Facility

This facility is dedicated to the testing and performance assessment of potential hydrogen storage materials. The laboratory is equipped with instruments which can measure how much and how quickly materials can reversibly store hydrogen and under which conditions. Experiments cover a variety of materials and testing conditions and the research is complemented by in-house microstructural analysis studies.

In view of the large disparity in hydrogen sorption data reported in the literature, the laboratory focuses on comparing measurements made using different techniques. The activity identifies discrepancies and potential error sources, and suggests improvements in testing procedures and measurements to achieve reliable, reproducible and accurate data. The laboratory is currently involved in European and international collaborative projects for testing hydrogen storage materials. And offers its services for "second opinion" measurements to European research centres and university groups that develop new materials, and serves as a training ground for aspiring young scientists active in this challenging field.

  • Info Sheet Hydrogen Safety-Storage (pdf) [EN] - [NL] - [FR] - [IT]


5. AMALIA laboratory: Ageing of Materials under the effect of environmentally assisted stress corrosion cracking

AMALIA laboratory

The facility consists of two high temperature and high pressure recirculating water loops for simulating general corrosion and stress corrosion cracking (SCC) conditions in various aqueous environments of relevance to Boiling Water Reactors, Pressurized Water Reactors, as well as to the environmental conditions of next generation Supercritical Water Reactors, also called High-Performance Light Water Reactors (HPLWR). The facility is used for mechanical performance and coolant compatibility assessment, and qualification of candidate materials for the European HPLWR concept with respect to corrosion and SCC resistance under severe temperature and pressure conditions with full control of the water chemistry. To this end four autoclave systems with Tmax = 650ºC, pmax = 360 bar are operated, which allow environmental mechanical testing (fracture mechanics and slow strain rate tensile tests). SCC is monitored by Direct Current Potential Drop and other methods like Acoustic Emission, Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy and Electrochemical Noise measurements. To widen the range of test capabilities, an advanced SCC testing device based on a pneumatic servo-controlled loading system in high temperature and pressure water environment has recently been installed. In addition, the facility allows monitoring corrosion kinetics by means of contact electric impedance and resistivity measurements.


6. High Flux Reactor (HFR)

High Flux Reactor (HFR)

The high flux reactor is one of the most powerful multi-purpose materials testing research reactors in the world. The HFR is a tank in pool type light water-cooled and moderated and operated at 45MW.The reactor provides a variety of irradiation facilities and possibilities in the reactor core, in the reflector region and in the poolside facility.

Research carried out in the HFR includes:

  • R&D for nuclear fission energy, i.e. materials irradiation in support of nuclear plant life extension
  • Irradiation tests for fuel materials for use in the High temperature Reactor HTR
  • R&D for Fusion Rector technologies
  • Partitioning and Transmutation technologies
  • Annual Report HFR (pdf) [EN]
  • High Flux Reactor (HFR) Petten characteristics of the installation and the irradiation facilities (pdf) [EN]


7. European Solar Test Installation (located at the JRC Ispra site)

Apollo simulator at ESTIThe European Solar Test Installation (ESTI) is a European reference laboratory for the verification of the power and energy generation of photovoltaic devices through the development of experimental methods suitable for international standardisation. It is located at the JRC's Ispra site in Italy.

ESTI is part of the JRC's SOLAREC action on photovoltaic electricity, which promotes the development of a fair and transparent EU market for PV and is part of the system for assessing progress to achieving the EU targets for renewable energy. The facilities were set up in 1997, and now include:

  • Primary reference devices for solar irradiation with traceability to the world radiometric reference system.
  • Cell characterisation with full traceability, including continuous solar simulators for I-V and spectral response measurements.
  • Module qualification and lifetime testing with climatic chambers for damp heat and thermal cycling, light soaking, stress & hail testing, insulation testing and visual inspection.
  • Module calibration, both in a climatically controlled darkroom with two pulsed solar simulators as well as an outdoor test stand and trackers.
  • Indoor service-condition simulator
  • Outdoor testing field with long term test stands, building-integrated PV test stands and an energy rating test stand

The lab has a Type "A" Liaison with the International Electrotechnical Commission and is fully accredited under ISO 17025. ESTI has experience with a large variety of PV technologies.

  • Info Sheet European Solar Test Installation (pdf) [EN] - [NL] - [FR] - [IT]


8. Vehicle Emissions Laboratories (VELA) (located at the JRC Ispra site)

The Ispra, Italy-based Vehicle Emissions Laboratory (VELA) comprises two well-equipped chemical and physical analysis labs, and seven major testing facilities capable of conducting emissions tests (including the measurement of evaporative emissions) on a variety of vehicles. These range from motorbikes to passenger cars and even large heavy-duty engines. Findings made at these facilities have provided scientific support for the development of new EU Directives and the revision of older ones, as well as for the assessment of new measurement techniques and procedures. They have also provided answers to other scientific challenges, such as the toxicity of emissions from motorcycles.