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More efficient fuel cells using optical fibers - Eurostars Lightcell

Fuel cells have the potential to revolutionize the energy market with clean, cost-effective and reliable energy. Together with the Scottish company Enocell and Canadian Hydrogenics, RISE has developed technology to make fuel cells more efficient using optical fiber and light.

The project developed a light-assisted catalyst system for increased efficiency of fuel cells. The idea is based on a patent by the Scottish company Enocell, and the goal is to demonstrate the concept in full scale at a Canadian manufacturer of fuel cell systems, Hydrogenics. 

The main objective for RISE in the project was to specify, develop and deliver a fiber optic system that enables the introduction of light into the active electrode array of fuel cells.

The efficiency of a fuel cell is significantly higher than, for example, a combustion engine, and the exhaust of a fuel cell is destilled water, not harmful to the environment. Enocell has shown that the efficiency can be further enhanced by introducing a light assisted catalyst into the chemically active areas of the cell. The catalyst-enhanced system also allows for the use of lower purity fuel, which means that the manufacturing and operation of the fuel cell system can be more cost effective.

From an optics perspective, the introduction of light into the fuel cell electrode arrays, to drive the catalyst function, is the main technical challenge of the development. 

The challenge of introducing light into the fuel cells was addressed in this project by novel solutions for miniaturization of the optical coupling and using small-diameter, light scattering, optical fibers.

A fully developed solution would provide fuel cell systems with higher efficiency and allow for the use of less pure fuel. The solution could significantly improve the cost efficiency in using fuel cells and have impact in areas such as vehicle engines and energy storage. 

RISE has, within this project, developed technology for manufacturing ultrathin optical fibers with an outer diameter of 25µm (the standard diameter is 125µm), as well as modules with light scattering fibers for illuminating the fuel cell electrodes. Potential applications, in addition to the fuel cell system, include smart catheters in medicine, integration in composites, and miniaturized sensing solutions. 


Project name

Lightcell - Fiber optics in fuel cells




Region Gävleborg

RISE role in project

Project participant, RTO

Project start


2.5 år


Hydrogenics Corp., Enocell Ltd.


EU Eurostars

Project members

Supports the UN sustainability goals

7. Affordable and clean energy
Åsa Claesson

Contact person

Åsa Claesson

+46 70 221 16 46

Read more about Åsa

Contact Åsa
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