[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.]
PowerCell unveils 3kW PowerPac fuel cell APU that converts diesel into electricity
May 21, 2013
PowerCell, a Swedish energy technology company with roots in the Volvo Group, unveiled a functioning full-scale prototype of its PowerPac fuel cell system, which combines an autothermal reformer and a PEM fuel cell stack to convert diesel fuel into electricity. (Earlier post.) The main target groups for PowerPac are truck manufacturers; truck owners; mobile operators; owners of base stations and other telecom infrastructure; and the military.
The PowerPac system is based on proprietary, patented technology. The unit is more efficient than a small ICE (internal combustion engine) generator in combination with an environmental friendly exhaust. The unit produces about 3kW of electric energy.
Converting wastepaper to biocrude and hydrogen
May 12, 2013
|Biocrude compounds, product gas and reaction pathways from APR of wastepaper at 250 °C in presence of 5 wt % Ni(NO3)2 catalyst. Credit: ACS, Tungal and Shende. Click to enlarge.|
A pair of researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have demonstrated homogeneously catalyzed subcritical aqueous phase reforming (APR) of wastepaper to produce biocrude and hydrogen. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Wastepaper can be a combination of newspaper—a lignocellulosic biomass containing cellulose (62%), hemicellulose (16%), and lignin (16%)—and used office printing papers which consist of mainly cellulose (85−99%) and negligible (0.4%) lignin. Using a homogeneous Ni(NO3)2 catalyst, they produced about 44 wt % biocrude from wastepaper slurry at 250 °C after 120 minutes of reaction time. The biocrude contained ∼1 wt % HMF/furfural, 7.5 wt % sugars, 49.1 wt % acids, and 42.4 wt % oxygenated hydrocarbons.
Brookhaven team develops molybdenum-soy catalyst that rivals performance of noble metals for hydrogen production
April 24, 2013
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) have developed a low-cost, stable, effective catalyst made from earth-abundant molybdenum and common soybeans (MoSoy).
In a paper published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the team reports that the catalyst—composed of a catalytic β-Mo2C phase and an acid-proof γ-Mo2N phase, drives the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) with low overpotentials, and is highly durable in a corrosive acidic solution over a period exceeding 500 hours. When supported on graphene sheets, the MoSoy catalyst exhibits very fast charge transfer kinetics, and its performance rivals that of noble-metal catalysts such as platinum (Pt) for hydrogen production.
German researchers improve catalyst for steam reforming of methanol with salt coating; enabler for renewable energy storage systems
April 19, 2013
Researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany) report in the journal Angewandte Chemie their development of an enhanced platinum catalyst for the steam reforming of methanol to release hydrogen.
A central problem of renewable energy technology lies in the great variation of energy generated (i.e., intermittency). One proposed solution is methanol-based hydrogen storage. In this scenario, excess renewable electricity can be used to electrolyze water to produce hydrogen. The hydrogen, in turn, is then reacted with carbon dioxide to make methanol and water, thus allowing it to be stored as a liquid. The hydrogen can be released from the methanol at a later time to power a fuel cell.
France’s IFPEN studying industrial potential of onshore sources of natural hydrogen
April 18, 2013
IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN) has become one of the first global research centers actively to investigate onshore natural hydrogen emissions after the discovery of offshore sources of the gas in the 1970s.
Initial exploratory work has already shown that continuous onshore natural H2 emissions occur frequently. IFPEN now is launching a new research project investigating the viability of industrial exploitation. IFPEN is a French public-sector research, innovation and training center active in the fields of energy, transport and the environment.
Virginia Tech team develops process for high-yield production of hydrogen from xylose under mild conditions
April 03, 2013
|Flow of the new process; enzymes are in red. Credit: Martín del Campo et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team of Virginia Tech researchers, led by Dr. Y.H. Percival Zhang, has developed a process to convert xylose—the second-most abundant sugar in plants—into hydrogen with approaching 100% of the theoretical yield. The findings of their study, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, International Edition, suggest that cell-free biosystems could produce hydrogen from biomass xylose at low cost.
In the process, hydrogen is produced from xylose and water in one reactor containing 13 enzymes, including a novel polyphosphate xylulokinase (XK). The method can be performed using any source of biomass.
Stanford GCEP awards $6.6M to 7 projects; focus on combining energy conversion with carbon-neutral fuel production
March 13, 2013
Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) is awarding $6.6 million to seven research teams—six from Stanford and one from Carnegie Mellon University—to advance research on technologies for renewable energy conversion to electricity or fuels and for capturing CO2 emissions and converting CO2 to fuels.
The 7 awards bring the total number of GCEP-supported research programs to 104, with total funding of approximately $125 million since the project’s launch in 2002.
IACS team develops high-performing bio-inspired electrocatalyst for hydrogen generation in an aqueous medium
March 11, 2013
Researchers from the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS), an autonomous—and the oldest—research institute in India, have developed a high-performing bio-inspired catalyst (an Fe−Fe hydrogenase mimic immobilized on graphite surfaces) for electrocatalytic hydrogen generation in an aqueous medium.
In a paper published in the journal ACS Catalysis, they report that the catalyst shows a turnover frequency of 6,400 s−1 at −0.5 V and an onset potential of −0.36 V vs NHE (normal hydrogen electrode, an early standard for zero potential). Prolonged electrolysis shows that the catalyst has a turnover number ≫108 and a Faradaic efficiency > 95%. Even at pH 2, more than 400 s−1 is obtained. The catalyst can be immobilized on inexpensive carbon electrodes, such as those used in domestic Zn-carbon dry batteries, to generate H2 from acid aqueous solutions.
MIT team outlines path to low-cost solar-to-fuels devices; the artificial leaf
March 05, 2013
A team of researchers at MIT has described a framework for efficiently coupling the power output of a series-connected string of single-band-gap solar cells to an electrochemical process that produces storable fuels. The open access paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), offers a roadmap for direct solar-to-fuels devices.
The new analysis follows up on 2011 research that produced a proof of concept of an artificial leaf—a small device that, when placed in a container of water and exposed to sunlight, would produce bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen. (Earlier post.) The new work outlines a research program to improve the efficiency of these systems, and could quickly lead to the production of a practical, inexpensive and commercially viable prototype.
New low-temperature catalytic process for producing hydrogen from methanol; potential future application for fuel cell vehicles
February 28, 2013
|(a) Schematic pathway for a homogeneously catalyzed methanol reforming process via three discrete dehydrogenation steps. (b) Best performing catalysts. Nielsen et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers from Germany and Italy have developed an efficient low-temperature catalytic process to produce hydrogen from methanol. Hydrogen generation by this method proceeds at 65–95 °C (149-203 °F) and ambient pressure with excellent catalyst turnover frequencies (4,700 per hour) and turnover numbers (exceeding 350,000). This could make the delivery of hydrogen on mobile devices—and hence the use of methanol as a practical hydrogen carrier—eventually feasible, the team suggests in a paper published in the journal Nature.
One of the challenges to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is the efficient on-board storage of adequate amounts of the hydrogen gas required for fuel cell operation due to the properties of the gas. Methanol conceptually is an interesting alternative, as it is a liquid at room temperature (easier transportation and handling) and contains 12.6% hydrogen. However, current methanol reforming technologies for the production of hydrogen are conducted at high temperatures (> 200 °C) and high pressures (25–50 bar), limiting potential mobile applications of “so-called reformed methanol fuel cells”, they note.
Researchers at UC Santa Barbara develop efficient and stable plasmonic water splitter; potential alternative to semiconductor-based solar conversion
February 25, 2013
Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have developed an efficient, autonomous solar water-splitting device based on a gold nanorod array in which essentially all charge carriers involved in the oxidation and reduction steps arise from the hot electrons resulting from the excitation of surface plasmons in the nanostructured gold (plasmonic water-splitter).
In a paper in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, they report that each nanorod functions without external wiring, producing 5x 1013 H2 molecules per cm2 per s under 1 sun illumination (AM 1.5 and 100 mW cm-2), with unprecedented long-term operational stability.
SDTC awards C$1.5M to support Molten Salt Catalyzed Gasification for hydrogen production; targeting reduced GHG footprint for oil sands synthetic crude
February 16, 2013
|Flowchart of the MSG process. Source: Western Hydrogen. Click to enlarge.|
A consortium led by Canada-based Western Hydrogen Ltd. will receive a $C1.5-million investment from Sustainable Development Technology Canada to support the development and commercialization of a new hydrogen manufacturing technology called Molten Salt Catalyzed Gasification (MSG), originally developed at the US Idaho National Laboratory (INL).
Hydrogen is necessary in the upgrading of oil sands bitumen into synthetic crude, but it is a costly and carbon-intensive part of the process, given current hydrogen production technologies. MSG converts natural gas into hydrogen with a 23% reduction in GHG emissions compared to steam methane reforming.
UKH2Mobility interim report finds potential for 1.6M hydrogen-powered vehicles on UK roads by 2030, with annual sales of 300K units
February 05, 2013
|UK consumer demand for FCEVs increases as the cost premium diminishes and the network of hydrogen refueling stations (HRS) expands. Source: UKH2Mobility. Click to enlarge.|
More than 1.5 million hydrogen-powered vehicles could be on UK roads by 2030, according to interim Phase I findings of the UKH2Mobility project, a joint Government-industry to evaluate the potential for hydrogen as a fuel for Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles in the UK before developing an action plan for an anticipated roll-out to consumers in 2014/15. (Earlier post.)
The forecast was made in an interim report commissioned to evaluate the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and ensure the UK is well positioned for their commercial roll-out. The study provides a roadmap for the introduction of vehicles and hydrogen refueling infrastructure in the UK.
Researchers demonstrate water splitting to generate hydrogen using ultra-small Si nanoparticles
January 18, 2013
|Schematic showing CO2 laser pyrolysis synthesis of silicon nanoparticles transferred to a custom stainless steel prototype cartridge used to generate hydrogen for fuel cell applications. Credit: ACS, Erogbogbo et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team of researchers from the University at Buffalo (SUNY) have demonstrated that hydrogen generation from ultra-small silicon nanoparticles (10 nm diameter) proceeds much more rapidly than expected based upon extrapolation of rates obtained using larger particles. The ultra-small particles react with water to generate hydrogen 1,000 times faster than bulk silicon, 100 times faster than previously reported Si structures, and 6 times faster than competing metal formulations.
In a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, they report that the hydrogen production rate using 10 nm Si is 150 times that obtained using 100 nm particles—significantly exceeding the expected effect of increased surface to volume ratio. These results imply that nanosilicon could provide a practical approach for on-demand hydrogen production without the addition of heat, light, or electrical energy, they suggested.
Topping-out ceremony for the Audi e-gas plant; synthetic methane production to begin in early 2013
December 13, 2012
|Components of the e-gas plant. Click to enlarge.|
Audi is celebrating progress on its e-gas plant under construction in Werlte, Germany with a topping-out ceremony. End products from the plant will be hydrogen and synthetic methane (Audi e-gas), to be used as fuel for vehicles such as the new Audi A3 Sportback TCNG. (Earlier post.)
The Audi e-gas plant, which can convert six megawatts of input power, will utilize renewable electricity for electrolysis, producing oxygen and hydrogen, the latter which could one day power fuel-cell vehicles. Because there is not yet a widespread hydrogen infrastructure, however, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 in a methanation unit to generate renewable synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas. Chemically speaking, this e-gas is nearly identical to fossil-based natural gas. As such, it can be distributed to CNG stations via the natural gas network and will power vehicles starting in 2013.
€3.59M PHAEDRUS project for all-electrochemical high-pressure hydrogen refueling for passenger cars
November 28, 2012
UK-based ITM Power has received confirmation of a €3.59-million (US$4.66-million) grant award from a program of the European Union’s Joint Technology Initiatives (JTI). The award is to a consortium for the development of an advanced hydrogen refueling system using ITM Power’s high pressure hydrogen electrolysis technology. ITM Power’s share of this award is €0.87 million (US$1.12 million).
The program, known as the PHAEDRUS project and funded under the Seventh Framework Programme (SP1-JTI-FCH.2001.2.7), aims to develop an all-electrochemical high pressure (70 MPa, 10,000 psi) hydrogen refueling station (HRS) for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) in the passenger car segment.
Rochester researchers demonstrate robust photogeneration of hydrogen in water using semiconductor nanocrystals and a nickel catalyst
November 09, 2012
Researchers at the University of Rochester (New York) have developed a robust and highly active system for solar hydrogen generation in water using semiconductor nanocrystals (NCs) and a nickel catalyst. The system uses no precious metals, and is based on light absorption and photoinduced electron transfer from the semiconductor nanocrystals that are photochemically stable.
In a paper published in the journal Science, they report that the precious-metal-free system, under appropriate conditions, generates more than 600,000 turnovers of H2 (with respect to catalyst) without deterioration of activity; has undiminished activity for at least 360 hours under illumination at 520 nm; and achieves quantum yields in water of more than 36%.
DOE to award up to $1M to evaluate technology pathways for cost-competitive hydrogen fuel
October 06, 2012
The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $1 million for up to two projects for 3–4 years to evaluate the most promising technology paths toward achieving $2 to $4 per gallon gasoline equivalent (gge) of hydrogen fuel or less by 2020.
The projects selected through this funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0000748) will help identify cost-effective and efficient materials and processes to produce hydrogen from renewable energy sources and natural gas. These projects will also analyze production and delivery technologies to identify key technical challenges and priorities and continue to evaluate technical progress and hydrogen cost status.
Partners begin verification testing of Blue Tower staged reforming technology for bio-hydrogen production from sewage sludge
September 11, 2012
|The HIT BusinessResearch Group intends to convert sewage sludge to hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles and stationary fuel cells. Click to enlarge.|
The Hydrogen Innovation Town (HIT) Business Research Group in Japan—including Japan Blue Energy Co., Ltd. (JBEC); Daiwa Lease Co., Ltd.; Toyota Tsusho Corporation; and Mitsui Chemicals, Inc.—has begun verification tests using sewage sludge to generate bio-hydrogen at JBEC’s Blue Tower new technology plant located at its development center in Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture.
The HIT Business Research Group is targeting the conversion of biomass (in this case, disposed sewage sludge) into hydrogen as a substitute for fossil fuels, utilizing JBEC’s proprietary Blue Tower staged reforming technology. The partners envision that the introduction of the technology to sewage treatment plants around Japan will facilitate supply of hydrogen to fuel cell vehicles (FCV) and stationary fuel cells (FC). Daiwa House Industry Co., Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corporation are participating in the group as observer members.
Cambridge team produces hydrogen from water using an inexpensive cobalt catalyst under real-world conditions
August 23, 2012
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have produced hydrogen from water using an inexpensive cobalt catalyst under industrially relevant conditions (using pH neutral water, surrounded by atmospheric oxygen and at room temperature).
The catalyst shows respectable Faradaic efficiencies under N2 and 21 % O2 in N2, and can be used under both homogeneous and heterogeneous conditions. A paper on the work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
PNNL team finds that use of an ionic liquid/aqueous solution boosts performance of nickel-based catalyst for hydrogen production more than 50-fold
June 16, 2012
Researchers at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have found that dissolving a nickel-based, hydrogenase-inspired catalyst in an ionic liquid/aqueous solution improves the observed catalytic rate of hydrogen production by more than a factor of 50, compared to the use of a traditional organic solvent.
In an open access paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they reported that their ionic liquid system showed a turnover frequency of 43,000–53,000 s−1 for hydrogen production at 25 °C when the mole fraction of water (χH2O is 0.72. The same catalyst in acetonitrile with added dimethylformamidium trifluoromethanesulfonate and water has a turnover frequency of 720 s−1.
Caltech engineers devise new thermochemical cycle for water splitting for H2; recyclable, non-toxic, non-corrosive and at lower temperatures
June 06, 2012
|Schematic representation of the 4-step low-temperature, Mn-based thermochemical cycle. Xu et al. Click to enlarge.|
Providing a possible new route to hydrogen-gas production, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have devised a new manganese-based thermochemical cycle with a highest operating temperature of 850 °C that is completely recyclable and does not involve toxic or corrosive intermediates.
The research group led by Mark Davis, the Warren and Katharine Schlinger Professor of Chemical Engineering at Caltech, describes the new, four-reaction process in an open access paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).