UCL Department of Chemical Engineering


Jennifer Hack

Jennifer was born in Glasgow, but grew up in Stockport in South Manchester. In 2011, she moved to Durham to undertake her degree in Chemistry and spent the final year carrying out her master’s research project at the University of Würzburg in Germany. Jennifer graduated from Durham in 2015 with a first class honours MChem degree.

Jennifer’s interest for electrochemical energy devices arose during the summer research project she carried out at the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL), in Grenoble, France in 2014, in which she was using computational chemistry to investigate solid oxide fuel cell (SOFCs) materials.

After taking a year out after graduating to spend in the mountains of Austria, Jennifer returned to the UK in September 2016 to start her PhD as part of the third cohort of the CDT in Advanced Characterisation of Materials. She is based mainly at the Electrochemical Innovation Lab (EIL), University College London, but also carries out part of her research in the Prof. Nigel Brandon group at Imperial College London. Combining her interests in energy and in materials characterisation, Jennifer is now investigating the degradation of polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs).

Research project

Title: Multiscale characterisation of polymer electrolyte fuel cells

There has been a growing demand for alternative energy conversion systems and electrochemical fuel cell systems have proven to be a promising contender. Polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) are one of the main types of fuel cell and are of interest for application in portable electronics, the automotive industry and stationary power generation. However, the formation and propagation of defects, which arise during fuel cell operation, have dramatic effects on the performance and lifetime of devices. These faults also raise safety concerns that are associated with the degradation of energy conversion systems.

Jennifer’s research project aims to elucidate the material degradation and defect formation in PEFCs under real world operating conditions. Using state of the art characterisation techniques, investigations will shed light on the fundamental material changes occurring during PEFC operation.

A multiscale characterisation approach will allow for a rigorous study of the function of PEFCs under practical operating conditions. Techniques including X ray computed tomography (X ray CT), electrochemical atomic force microscopy (EC AFM) and focused ion beam/scanning electron microscopy (FIB SEM) will provide a unique insight into the fuel cell components, such as the electrodes and polymeric membrane, from the micro  down to the nano scale. This will enable a thorough understanding of the material changes that occur during operation of PEFCs on multiple length scales.


MChem in Chemistry, Durham University, 2015