[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]
HyperSolar reaches 1.25 V for water-splitting with its self-contained low-cost photoelectrochemical nanosystem
December 10, 2014
HyperSolar, Inc. announced that it had reached 1.25 volts (V) of water-splitting voltage with its novel low-cost electrolysis technology. Future development efforts will focus on increasing the currents and photovoltages beyond 1.5V.
The theoretical minimum voltage needed to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen is 1.23 V (at 25 °C at pH 0). However, in real world systems, 1.5 V or more is generally needed because of the low reaction kinetics. So far, other researchers have mainly achieved this voltage level through the use of either inefficient materials, such as titanium oxide, or very expensive semiconductors, such as gallium arsenide, HyperSolar noted. Further, overcoming the corrosive degradation of these “artificial photosynthesis” systems remains a challenge and has thus far eluded commercialization.
Toshiba targeting practical implementation of conversion of solar energy and CO2 to feedstock and fuel in 2020s
December 03, 2014
|Mechanism of the technology. Source: Toshiba. Click to enlarge.|
Toshiba Corporation has developed a new technology that uses solar energy directly to generate carbon compounds from carbon dioxide and water, and to deliver a viable chemical feedstock or fuel with potential for use in industry. Toshiba introduced the technology at the 2014 International Conference on Artificial Photosynthesis (ICARP2014) on 26 November.
The long-term goal of the research work is to develop a technology compatible with carbon dioxide capture systems installed at facilities such as thermal power stations and factories, utilizing carbon dioxide to provide stockable and trailerable energy. Towards this, Toshiba said it will further improve the conversion efficiency by increasing catalytic activity, with the aim of securing practical implementation in the 2020s.
Researchers develop free-standing nanowire mesh for direct solar water-splitting to produce H2; new design for “artificial leaf”
|The mesh with BiVO4 nanowire photoanode for water oxidation and Rh-SrTiO3 nanowire photocathode for water reduction produces hydrogen gas without an electron mediator. Credit: ACS, Liu et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers from UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore have developed a new technology for direct solar water-splitting—i.e., an “artificial leaf” to produce hydrogen—based on a nanowire mesh that lends itself to large-scale, low-cost production. A paper describing their work is published in the journal ACS Nano.
In the design, semiconductor photocatalysts are synthesized as one-dimensional nanowires, which are assembled into a free-standing, paper-like mesh using a vacuum filtration process from the paper industry. When immersed in water with visible light irradiation (λ ≥ 400 nm), the mesh produces hydrogen gas. Although boosting efficiency remains a challenge, their approach—unlike other artificial leaf systems—is free-standing and doesn’t require any additional wires or other external devices that would add to the environmental footprint.
Novel single-site gold WGS catalysts may offer pathway to lower-cost production of hydrogen, fuels and chemicals
December 02, 2014
A team of researchers from universities and national laboratories led by Tufts University has developed catalysts composed of a unique structure of single gold atoms bound by oxygen to several sodium or potassium atoms and supported on non-reactive silica materials. This single-site gold species is active for the low-temperature (< 200 °C) water-gas shift (WGS) reaction that produces hydrogen.
They thus have found that gold is similar to platinum in creating –O and –OH linkages with more than eight alkali ions and establishing an active site on various supports. This finding paves the way for using earth-abundant supports to disperse and to stabilize precious metal atoms with alkali additives for the WGS and potentially other fuel processing reactions. The result could be lower costs. A paper describing their work is now published in Science Express.
DOE reports progress on development of low-carbon and renewable sources of hydrogen production
November 21, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office’ (FCTO) 2014 Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Annual Progress Report (earlier post)—an annual summary of results from projects funded by DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program—described progress in the field of hydrogen production.
The objective of the Hydrogen Production sub-program is to reduce the cost of hydrogen dispensed at the pump to a cost that is competitive on a cents-per-mile basis with competing vehicle technologies. Based on current analysis, this translates to a hydrogen threshold cost of <$4 per kg hydrogen (produced, delivered, and dispensed, but untaxed) by 2020, apportioned to <$2/kg for production only.
Volkswagen Group shows 3 hydrogen fuel cell concepts at LA Show: Audi A7 Sportback h-tron; Golf Sportwagen HyMotion; Passat HyMotion
November 20, 2014
|Audi A7 Sportback h-tron. Click to enlarge.|
Audi and Volkswagen, both members of the Volkswagen Group, unveiled three hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle demonstrators at the Los Angeles Auto Show: the sporty Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro, a plug-in fuel-cell electric hybrid featuring permanent all-wheel drive and the Golf Sportwagen HyMotion, a fuel-cell hybrid, both received a formal introduction in the companies’ press conferences. Further, Volkswagen brought two Passat HyMotion demonstrators for media drives. (The Golf and Passat models have identical hydrogen powertrains and control software.)
All three incorporate a fourth-generation, 100 kW LT PEM (Low Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane) fuel cell stack developed in-house by Volkswagen Group Research at the Volkswagen Technology Center for Electric Traction. (Volkswagen is tapping some expertise from Ballard engineers under a long-term services contract, earlier post.) The Group is already at work on its fifth-generation version, said Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at Audi, during a fuel cell technology workshop held at the LA show, and may be ready to talk about that technology by the end of next year.
Toshiba to partner with Kawasaki City on 5-year demo of independent energy supply system utilizing solar power and hydrogen
November 14, 2014
Toshiba Corporation and Kawasaki City will conduct a cooperative demonstration experiment of an independent energy supply system utilizing solar power and hydrogen. This system will be set up in the Kawasaki Marien public facility and Higashi-Ogishima-Naka Park in the Kawasaki Port area. The demonstration will run from April 2015 (the beginning of fiscal 2015) until the end of fiscal 2020 (March 2021).
The independent energy supply system combines a 25 kW photovoltaic facility; a storage battery; hydrogen-producing water electrolysis equipment; hydrogen (275 Nm3) and water tanks; and fuel cells. Electricity generated from the photovoltaic installations will be used to electrolyze water and produce hydrogen, which will then be stored in hydrogen tank and used in the fuel cells to provide electricity and hot water (60ℓ/h). Hydrogen electrical power storage capacity is 350 kWh. (Hydrogen storage capacity increases by about a maximum of 20%, depending on the weather.)
Opinion: Debunking the myths—Why fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are viable for the mass market
November 07, 2014
by Dr. Henri Winand, CEO of Intelligent Energy
2014 has been a year of rapid growth for the fuel cell market with positive progress being made globally, especially in markets such as US, UK, Germany, France and Japan. Public-private investment initiatives, government funding for infrastructure and consumer subsidies, falling production costs and notably, the commitment to future OEM launches of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs)—all indicate a clear road to adoption. The findings from last year’s UK H2 Mobility report support this conclusion, outlining that FCEVs represent an attractive and sustainable long-term business proposition and that they can deliver important environmental and economic benefits to the UK.
Despite the recent progress, a number of myths around the use, power efficiency and cost of fuel cells still exist.
Rice University researchers create dual-purpose edge-oriented MoS2 film for energy storage, hydrogen catalysis
November 03, 2014
The Rice lab of chemist James Tour has turned molybdenum disulfide’s two-dimensional form into a edge-oriented nanoporous film that can catalyze the production of hydrogen or be used for energy storage as part of a supercapacitor device.
The versatile chemical compound, classified as a dichalcogenide, is inert along its flat sides; however, previous studies determined the material’s edges are highly efficient catalysts for hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), a process used in fuel cells to pull hydrogen from water. Tour and his colleagues found a cost-effective way to create flexible films of the material that maximize the amount of exposed edge and have potential for a variety of energy-oriented applications. A paper on the research appears in the journal Advanced Materials.
DOE seeking feedback on findings of hydrogen production and delivery workshops
October 29, 2014
The US Department of Energy's Fuel Cell Technologies Office has issued two requests for information (RFIs) seeking feedback from the research community and relevant stakeholders about electrolytic hydrogen production (DE-FOA-0001188) and hydrogen delivery research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) activities (DE-FOA-0001187) aimed at developing technologies that can ultimately produce and deliver low-cost hydrogen.
The purpose of these RFIs is to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to electrolytic hydrogen production pathways and hydrogen transmission and distribution, specifically with respect to reports developed at workshops on the topics convened by the DOE in February.
Swedish Energy Agency grants PowerCell $1.4M loan for the development of next-generation fuel cell APU system
October 06, 2014
The Swedish Energy Agency has granted fuel cell technology company PowerCell, a spinout from the Volvo Group (earlier post), a loan of SEK 10 million (US$1.385 million) for the development of the next generation PowerPac APU (auxiliary power unit) system, which converts diesel fuel into electricity via a system comprising a catalytic reformer and fuel cells. The next-generation unit covers a larger power range up to 25 kW and maintains the same tolerance towards CO and reformate gas as the present platform.
The PowerCell system comprises three modules: the fuel reformer; the fuel cell stack; and the power electronics. PowerCell selected an Auto Thermal Reactor (ATR) technology to evaporate (not combust) the diesel and extract hydrogen-rich gas with gas purity well within the limits of what a low temperature PEM fuel cell can support in terms of CO.
EPFL team develops low-cost water splitting cell with solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of 12.3%
September 26, 2014
A team led by Dr. Michael Grätzel at EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in Switzerland has developed a highly efficient and low-cost water-splitting cell combining an advanced perovskite tandem solar cell and a bi-functional Earth-abundant catalyst.
The combination of the two delivers a water-splitting photocurrent density of around 10 milliamperes per square centimeter, corresponding to a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of 12.3%. (Currently, perovskite instability limits the cell lifetime.) Their paper is published in the journal Science. In a companion Perspective in the journal, Dr. Thomas Hamann of Michigan State University, who was not involved with the study, called Grätzel’s team’s work “an important step towards achieving [the] goal” of quickly developing alternative sources of energy that can replace fossil fuels.
German researchers boost algal hydrogen production five-fold using metabolic engineering approach
September 25, 2014
Scientists from the Max Planck Institutes for Chemical Energy Conversion and Coal Research and from the research group Photobiotechnology at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have discovered a way of increasing the efficiency of hydrogen production in microalgae by a factor of five by using a combined metabolic engineering approach. An open access paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.
The genetic modifications resulting in the enhanced light-driven hydrogen production opens new avenues for the design of H2-producing organisms, which might lead to the design of an economically competitive hydrogen producing organism, the researchers suggest.
U Glasgow chemists develop new electrolyzer architecture for H2 production 30X faster than current electrolyzers at equivalent platinum loading
September 15, 2014
Chemists from the University of Glasgow (Scotland) have developed a new method for hydrogen production that is 30 times faster than current state-of-the-art proton exchange membrane electrolyzers at equivalent platinum loading. The process also solves common problems associated with generating electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind or wave energy. A paper on their method is published in the journal Science.
The method uses a recyclable redox mediator (silicotungstic acid) that enables the coupling of low-pressure production of oxygen via water oxidation to a separate, catalytic hydrogen production step outside an electrolyzer that requires no post-electrolysis energy input. This approach sidesteps the production of high-pressure gases inside the electrolytic cell (a major cause of membrane degradation) and essentially eliminates the hazardous issue of product gas crossover at the low current densities that characterize renewables-driven water-splitting devices.
Stanford team reports new low-cost, non-precious metal catalyst for water splitting with performance close to platinum
August 22, 2014
|Structure of the NiO/Ni-CNT hybrid. Blue = nickel, green = nickel oxide. Credit: Gong et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at Stanford University, with colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other institutions, have developed a nickel-based electrocatalyst for low-cost water-splitting for hydrogen production with performance close to that of much more expensive commercial platinum electrocatalysts.
As described in their paper in Nature Communications, the catalyst comprises nanoscale nickel oxide/nickel heterostructures formed on carbon nanotube sidewalls (NiO/Ni-CNT nano-hybrids). The researchers were able to make the electrocatalysts active enough to split water at room temperature with a single 1.5-volt battery, said Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. This marked the first time anyone has used non-precious metal catalysts to split water at a voltage that low, he added.
Molecular shuttle speeds up hydrogen production by the photocatalytic splitting of water
August 15, 2014
In their latest experiments with semiconductor nanocrystals as light absorbers, physicists led by Professor Jochen Feldmann (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, LMU Munich), in collaboration with a team of chemists under the direction of Professor Andrey Rogach (City University of Hong Kong), have succeeded in significantly increasing the yield of hydrogen produced by the photocatalytic splitting of water.
The crucial innovation, reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature Materials, is the use of a so-called molecular shuttle to markedly improve the mobility of charge carriers in their reaction system.
RIKEN researchers develop bio-inspired catalyst that splits water at neutral pH
August 09, 2014
Plants use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars and oxygen. The process starts in a cluster of manganese, calcium and oxygen atoms at the heart of a protein complex called photosystem II, which splits water to form oxygen gas, protons and electrons.
Numerous researchers have attempted to develop synthetic catalysts that mimic this cluster, using light or electricity to convert water into fuels such as hydrogen gas. Unlike plants, however, these artificial catalysts can only split alkaline water, which makes the process less sustainable. Now, researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan have developed a manganese oxide-based catalyst system that can split water efficiently at neutral pH. They report on their work in an open access paper in the journal Nature Communications.
Researchers demonstrate use of 3D printing to produce and operate light-weight, low-cost electrolyzers
July 05, 2014
A team at the University of Glasgow has demonstrated the production and operation of a PEM electrolyzer constructed from silver-coated 3D-printed components fabricated from polypropylene. The use of 3D printing allows construction of light-weight, low-cost electrolyzers and the rapid prototyping of flow field design.
In a paper accepted by the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the researchers report data showing that performance is excellent for a first-generation device in terms of overall efficiency, internal resistances and current-voltage response. This development opens the door to the fabrication of light-weight and inexpensive electrolyzers as well as related electrochemical devices such as flow batteries and fuel cells, they suggested.
USC team finds Li-Al nanoparticles produce hydrogen from water with high rate and yield; potential for industrial scaling
June 27, 2014
Aluminum and water react exothermically to form aluminum hydroxide and hydrogen; this basic property has lured numerous researchers interested in generating hydrogen from the aluminum-water reaction for modern transportation systems for at least 35 years. (Earlier post.) However, among the barriers to the practical application of this reaction are the low reaction rate and poor yield.
Now, results of large quantum molecular dynamics (QMD) simulations by a team at the University of Southern California suggest that alloying aluminum particles with lithium to produce hydrogen from water can produce orders-of-magnitude faster reactions with higher yields. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.
DOE awards $20M to 10 hydrogen production and delivery technologies projects
June 17, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award $20 million to ten new research and development projects that will advance hydrogen production and delivery technologies: six on hydrogen production and four on hydrogen delivery.
The six hydrogen production R&D projects selected aim to produce, deliver, and dispense hydrogen at less than $4 per gallon gasoline equivalent:
DOE to award up to $4.6M for innovations in fuel cell and hydrogen fuel technologies
June 06, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) issued a funding opportunity announcement for up to $4.6 million for 12–24 month projects with industry and academia (DE-FOA-0000966) in support of innovations in fuel cell and hydrogen fuel technologies. (Earlier post.)
The FCTO Incubator Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is intended to identify potentially impactful technologies that are not already addressed in FCTO’s strategic plan or project portfolio. The FOA is open to any and all impactful ideas which will significantly advance the mission of the FCTO and that are relevant to its Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP); however, specific areas of interest include:
New mesoporous crystalline Si exhibits increased rate of H2 production; potential use in Li-ion batteries also
April 11, 2014
|Schematic of mesoporous silicon Image: Donghai Wang/Penn State. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at Penn State have devised a new process for the bottom-up synthesis of mesoporous crystalline silicon materials with high surface area and tunable primary particle/pore size via a self-templating pore formation process.
The nanosized crystalline primary particles and high surface areas enable an increased rate of photocatalytic hydrogen production from water and extended working life. These advantages also make the mesoporous silicon a potential candidate for other applications, such as optoelectronics, drug delivery systems and even lithium-ion batteries. A paper on their work is published in Nature Communications.
US Navy demos recovery of CO2 and production of H2 from seawater, with conversion to liquid fuel; “Fuel from Seawater”
April 08, 2014
Researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Materials Science and Technology Division have demonstrated novel NRL technologies developed for the recovery of CO2 and hydrogen from seawater and their subsequent conversion to liquid fuels. Flying a radio-controlled replica of the historic WWII P-51 Mustang red-tail aircraft (of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen), NRL researchers Dr. Jeffrey Baldwin, Dr. Dennis Hardy, Dr. Heather Willauer, and Dr. David Drab used a novel liquid hydrocarbon fuel to power the aircraft’s unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine.
The test provides a proof-of-concept for an NRL-developed process to extract CO2 and produce hydrogen gas from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. The potential longer term payoff for the Navy is the ability to produce fuel at or near the point of use when it is needed, thereby reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery, enhancing combat capabilities, and providing greater energy security by fixing fuel cost and its availability.
Aberdeen takes delivery of first 4 of 10 hydrogen buses
March 24, 2014
The Aberdeen (Scotland) city council has taken delivery of four of the 10 hydrogen buses ordered from Belgian firm Van Hool and to be operated by FirstGroup and Stagecoach as part of the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project. The others are due to be delivered in the coming weeks; in total, the 10 will represent the largest single operating hydrogen bus fleet. Ballard Power Systems is developing the hydrogen fuel cells for the buses.
The £19-million (US$31 million) Aberdeen City Council-led bus project, which has backing from Europe, the UK Government and the Scottish Government, as well as a broad range of private sector partners, is testing the economic and environmental benefits of hydrogen transport technologies and aims to drive the development of hydrogen technologies.
JCAP hybrid photocathode material shows promising performance in conversion of solar energy to hydrogen
March 09, 2014
A new study by Berkeley Lab researchers at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) shows that nearly 90% of the electrons generated by a new hybrid photocathode material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules (Faradaic efficiency).
Gary Moore, a chemist and principal investigator with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, led an efficiency analysis study of the material he and his research group have developed for catalyzing the production of hydrogen fuel from sunlight. (Earlier post.) This material, a p-type (100) gallium phosphide (GaP) semiconductor functionalized with molecular hydrogen-producing cobaloxime catalysts via polymer grafting, has the potential to address one of the major challenges in the use of artificial photosynthesis to make renewable solar fuels.
DOE to issue funding opportunity for hydrogen and fuel cell Incubator projects
March 07, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of its Fuel Cell Technologies Office, a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) entitled “Innovations in Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Fuels Technologies” (DE-FOA-0001094) for the FCTO Incubator program.
EERE has established multi‐year plans and roadmaps, with a concomitant focus of the majority of its resources on a limited number of “highest probability of success” pathways/approaches to ensure that the program initiatives are supported at a critical mass (both in terms of dollars and time) for maximum impact. While this roadmap‐based approach can be a strength, it can also create challenges in recognizing and exploring unanticipated, game changing pathways/approaches which may ultimately be superior to the pathways/approaches on the existing roadmaps.
Iogen proposes new method to increase renewable content of transportation fuels; renewable hydrogen from biogas for refinery hydrogenation units
January 23, 2014
Cellulosic biofuel and biochemical company Iogen Corporation has developed and filed for patents on a new method to increase the renewable energy content of liquid transportation fuels. The production method involves processing biogas to deliver renewable hydrogen and then incorporating the renewable hydrogen into conventional liquid fuels via selected refinery hydrogenation units.
The company estimates there is refining capacity in place to incorporate 5-6 billion gallons per year of renewable hydrogen content into gasoline and diesel fuel. Iogen says it will initially commercialize the approach using landfill biogas, and then expand production using biogas made in the cellulosic ethanol facilities it is currently developing.
University of Houston team demonstrates new efficient solar water-splitting catalyst for hydrogen production
December 16, 2013
Researchers from the University of Houston (UH) have developed a cobalt(II) oxide (CoO) nanocrystalline catalyst that can carry out overall water splitting with a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of around 5%. They report on their work in a paper in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Corresponding author Jiming Bao, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UH, said photocatalytic water-splitting experiments have been tried since the 1970s, but this was the first to use cobalt oxide and the first to use neutral water under visible light at a high energy conversion efficiency without co-catalysts or sacrificial chemicals.
DOE issues Request for Information on financing strategies for light-duty H2 fueling infrastructure
December 13, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0001055) for light-duty fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) fueling infrastructure financing strategies within the context of an early market introduction.
The purpose of this RFI is to solicit feedback from the financial/investment/business community and light-duty vehicle (LDV) hydrogen transportation stakeholders. This input will augment financing strategies that DOE analyzes for public deployment of infrastructure for supporting FCEV introduction in US markets. Such financing strategies should maximize financing, for example, with debt and equity, while minimizing public incentives.