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Cella Energy Ltd named UK winner for Shell Springboard Awards 2011 for novel solid-state hydrogen storage technology

Cella Energy, developer of a novel hydrogen storage technology (earlier post), was named the UK winner for the Shell Springboard Awards 2011. Cella Energy’s invention uses nanotechnology to store hydrogen safely in tiny micro-beads (smaller than a grain of sand) which then release hydrogen when heated. Storing hydrogen in this way means that it can be safely transported in micro-bead form, opening the door to it being available at gasoline stations for consumers.

The hydrogen micro-bead technology is compatible with standard combustion engines and can either be used as an additive to conventional fuels where it would reduce carbon emissions, or on its own to make hydrogen gas for zero-carbon driving.

Cella is a spin-off from STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK. It is commercializing a way to nanostructure and encapsulate complex chemical hydride materials to improve their performance, in terms of temperature of operation, adsorption and desorption kinetics, and render them safe to handle in air. The final product is either a fine micro-fibrous polymer mat that resembles white tissue paper, or polymer micro-beads with a diameter of ~ 0.5 - 5µm, with the hydride material entrained in ~50 - 200nm pores within the polymer.

Cella Energy received their award at a ceremony held at the Royal Society of Science in London. Their invention impressed a panel of judges which included leading climate change expert Lord Oxburgh, UK Low Carbon Business Advisor Professor Julia King and Greenpeace Chief Scientist Doug Parr.

Being named the overall Shell Springboard winner for 2011 is a great boost for Cella Energy which will give us real credibility in the eyes of customers and potential investors alike. The £40,000 will enable us to scale up our technology to an industrial scale in order to help us realize our ambition of providing a safe, zero-carbon hydrogen fuel which can be used to power the transport industry and dramatically cut carbon emissions.

—Stephen Voller from Cella Energy

Shell Springboard provides a financial boost to innovative, low-carbon business ideas from across the UK and was piloted in 2005.

Vphase plc was named as the Shell Springboard runner up 2011 for its product which lowers and regulates household voltage use allowing customers to immediately cut their energy costs without changing their energy supplier or lifestyle.

The Vphase product reduces and manages the voltage coming into people’s homes, to ensure most electrical appliances use less electricity and cost less to run, in turn lowering carbon emissions. This reduction of domestic voltage can lead to a decrease in household electricity bills of between 6-12%.

The three other finalists were:

  • Ashwoods Automotive Ltd, which has designed a product that regulates and lengthens the lifespan of electric car batteries, which can cost up to £50,000 each.
  • Cambridge Carbon Capture, which has created technology that captures and stores CO2 from the atmosphere. The product also produces CO2 free electricity in addition to carbonate which can be sold to the building industry.
  • Naked Energy Ltd, which has developed a solar panel which is able to generate both electricity and hot water in cool climates.

The global market for low carbon goods and services, which is already worth over £3 trillion, is expected to exceed £4.5 trillion by 2015, with the UK market the sixth largest in the world. Nearly 200 small businesses from across the UK entered the Shell Springboard awards this year.

The 2010 Shell Springboard award winners, Hi Mag Solutions Ltd, used their award to hire a new production engineer, allowing them to develop and introduce new high quality solar-powered products. The recognition of winning a Shell Springboard Award has helped Hi Mag Solutions attract investment interest drawn engineering talent to their business.

Last year’s runner up,, the online marketplace for transporting goods, has saved the UK in excess of 4M kg of CO2 since winning the award last year.



Provided that the hydrogen can be generated from a renewable source, this is a breakthrough for storage of hydrogen that can work for fuel cells, but importantly also for the ICE fleet if the system discussed os retrofitted to existing vehicles or applied to new ICEs.

Exciting times.


Good idea, more valuable as the generation of renewable H2 becomes more cost effective.

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