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Hydrogen Production

[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.]

Proof-of-principle of cost-effective methane cracking technology for H2 production without CO2; 50% cleaner than SMR, comparable to electrolysis

November 19, 2015

Researchers of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have achieved the proof-of-principle for a innovative technique to extract hydrogen (H2) from methane (CH4) without the formation of CO2 as a byproduct.

At this stage, cost estimates are uncertain, since methane cracking is not yet a fully mature technology. However, preliminary calculations show that it could achieve costs of €1.9 to €3.3 per kilogram of hydrogen at German natural gas prices—without taking the market value of the solid black carbon byproduct of the process into consideration.

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PNNL team presents new insight into H2 production by cyanobacterium Cyanothece

November 11, 2015

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have presented a new and more complete view on the way a cyanobacterium—Cyanothece 51142—produces hydrogen.

Using genome-scale transcript and protein profiling, the team study presented and tested a new hypothesis on the metabolic relationship between oxygenic photosynthesis and nitrogenase-mediated H2 production in Cyanothece 51142. The results, reported in an open-access paper in Nature’s Scientific Reports, show that net-positive rates of oxygenic photosynthesis and increased expression of photosystem II reaction centers correspond and are synchronized with nitrogenase expression and H2 production.

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AC Transit files LCFS pathway application for H2 produced by electrolysis (solar): 0.00 gCO2e/MJ

November 06, 2015

AC Transit (Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District), which operates the third-largest public bus system in California, has filed a fuel pathway application for gaseous hydrogen produced via electrolysis powered by renewable electricity (solar) with the California Air Resources Board (ARB) under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) regulation.

According to AC Transit’s analysis—which is supported by ARB Staff—the carbon intensity (CI) of the gaseous hydrogen produced by the pathway is 0.00 gCO2e/MJ—i.e., a zero-carbon fuel on a “well-to-tank” lifecycle basis.

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Atomic cobalt on nitrogen-doped graphene catalyst shows promise to replace platinum for hydrogen production

October 21, 2015

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Houston have developed a robust, solid-state catalyst that shows promise to replace expensive platinum for hydrogen generation.

The new electrocatalyst, based on very small amounts of cobalt dispersed as individual atoms on nitrogen-doped graphene (Co-NG), is robust and highly active in aqueous media with very low overpotentials (30 mV). In an open-access paper published in Nature Communications, the researchers suggested that the unusual atomic constitution of supported metals is suggestive of a new approach to preparing extremely efficient single-atom catalysts.

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California Hydrogen Business Council says a robust P2G RD&D program should be a priority for the state

October 14, 2015

The case for using Power-to-Gas solutions to store renewable energy is compelling for a number of important use cases, according to a new white paper released by the California Hydrogen Business Council (CHBC). The paper, —“Power-To-Gas: The Case For Hydrogen”—outlines the feasibility and economics of renewable energy storage solutions using P2G. Among the paper’s conclusions is that a robust P2G RD&D program should be a priority for the state of California. Currently, P2G is being deployed in Europe and Canada but is only at the early demonstration phase in California.

P2G systems use electrolysis powered by renewable energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen—i.e., P2G converts electrical energy to chemical energy in the form of hydrogen. The hydrogen can then be transported through the natural gas grid via blending or further conversion to methane, transported by other means such as trucks, or used directly at the point of production. (Posts.)

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Hydrexia and HyGear partner on low-cost hydrogen distribution in Europe; solid state storage and delivery

October 13, 2015

Australia-based hydrogen solid state storage and distribution company Hydrexia has entered an agreement with Netherlands-based HyGear, supplier of industrial gases and on-site generation systems, to supply hydrogen in Europe. The hydrogen will be produced by HyGear’s small-scale Hy.GEN steam methane reforming (SMR) facilities located across Europe.

The agreement between the two companies allows for development and supply of a complete hydrogen generation, storage and distribution system with a lower cost product for customers. Hydrexia is entering the European market in partnership with HyGear with the intention of becoming a distributor of the lowest cost hydrogen in Europe.

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Sandia team boosts hydrogen production activity by molybdenum disulfide four-fold; low-cost catalyst for solar-driven water splitting

October 07, 2015

A team led by researchers from Sandia National Laboratories has shown that molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), exfoliated with lithiation intercalation to change its physical structure, performs as well as the best state-of-the-art catalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) but at a significantly lower cost. An open access paper on their study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

The improved catalyst has already released four times the amount of hydrogen ever produced by MoS2 from water. To Sandia postdoctoral fellow and lead author Stan Chou, this is just the beginning: “We should get far more output as we learn to better integrate molly with, for example, fuel-cell systems,” he said.

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Toyota and public and private partners in Japan to trial renewable CO2-free hydrogen supply chain

September 08, 2015

Major corporate and public sector partners in Japan are launching an effort to test a full carbon-neutral hydrogen supply chain powered by renewable wind energy. The trials are planned to take place near the cities of Yokohama and Kawasaki in the Keihin coastal region.

On the public sector side, the project is being implemented by the Kanagawa Prefectural Government, Yokohama City, and Kawasaki City. The four private sector participants are Iwatani Corporation, Toshiba Corporation, Toyota Motor Corporation, and Toyota Turbine and Systems Inc. In addition, the project will be supported by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment.

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Rice team demonstrates plasmonic hot-electron solar water-splitting technology; simpler, cheaper and efficient

September 05, 2015

Researchers at Rice have demonstrated an efficient new way to use solar energy for water splitting. The technology, described in a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, relies on a novel plasmonic photoelectrode architecture of light-activated gold nanoparticles that harvest sunlight to drive photocatalytic reactions by efficient, non-radiative plasmon decay into “hot carriers”—highly excited electrons.

In contrast to past work, the new architecture does not utilize a Schottky junction—the commonly used building block to collect hot carriers. Instead, the team observed large photocurrents from a Schottky-free junction due to direct hot electron injection from plasmonic gold nanoparticles into the reactant species upon plasmon decay.

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DLR-led NEMESIS 2+ project develops compact direct steam reformer for diesel/biodiesel to H2

September 02, 2015

The European NEMESIS 2+ consortium has and successfully tested a pre-commercial on-site system for the production of hydrogen from diesel and biodiesel. The prototype system—the size of a shipping container—can be integrated into existing infrastructure with relative ease.

The prototype, built by the Dutch project partner HyGear, produces 4.4 kilograms of hydrogen from 20 liters of biodiesel per hour—this roughly corresponds to the fuel tank of a B-Class F-cell vehicle. The efficiency of the process, from start to finish, is approximately 70%. (Original project goals were 50 Nm3/h, or 4.5 kg/h with an efficiency >80%.) The EU NEMESIS 2+ project, which ran until June 2015, was coordinated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

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JCAP team reports first complete “artificial leaf”; >10% solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency

August 28, 2015

Researchers at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) report the development of the first complete, efficient, safe, integrated solar-driven system—an “artificial leaf”—for splitting water to produce hydrogen. JCAP is a US Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Innovation Hub established at Caltech and its partnering institutions in 2010.

The new system has three main components: two electrodes—one photoanode and one photocathode—and a membrane. The photoanode uses sunlight to oxidize water molecules, generating protons and electrons as well as oxygen gas. The photocathode recombines the protons and electrons to form hydrogen gas. A key part of the JCAP design is the plastic membrane, which keeps the oxygen and hydrogen gases separate. If the two gases are allowed to mix and are accidentally ignited, an explosion can occur; the membrane lets the hydrogen fuel be separately collected under pressure and safely pushed into a pipeline.

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Proposed process for low-emissions coal-to-liquids

August 05, 2015

The EMS (Earth and Mineral Science) Energy Institute at Penn State has developed a conceptual novel process configuration for producing clean middle-distillate fuels from coal with some algal input with minimal emissions.

The Institute was involved for about 20 years in a project intended to develop a coal-derived jet fuel; a number of papers and reports have already been published on that work. In a new paper in the journal Technology, Professor (Emeritus) Harold Schobert combined a review of the two decades of development with the novel conceptual approach for near-zero emissions coal-to-liquids.

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DLR techno-economic valuation of power-to-liquids finds reducing electrolyzer and electricity costs key to cost-competitive liquid hydrocarbons

July 20, 2015

In 2012, the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers launched a three-year project on the production of synthetic liquid hydrocarbons from electricity (i.e. Power-to-Liquids, PtL) using a multistage process (SynKWS), in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) – Institute of Combustion Technology Stuttgart; the University of Stuttgart IFK; and the University of Bayreuth – Chair of Chemical Engineering.

As part of the SynKWS work, DLR researchers have now published a techno-economic study of a modeled PtL process in the journal Fuel. The multi-stage process uses renewable power to produce hydrogen using a proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer. The hydrogen from electrolysis and CO2, delivered by a pipeline, are fed to a plant where the gases are converted in a reverse water–gas shift (RWGS) reactor to syngas (H2 and CO). The syngas is then further converted to hydrocarbons using Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis. The hydrocarbon syncrude is upgraded and separated from unreacted feed and gaseous hydrocarbons to make the final product.

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Fukushima launching power-to-gas hydrogen project with MCH as hydrogen carrier; supply center by 2016

Fukushima and the Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute (FREA) have launched a power-to-has project with a view to making the prefecture a hydrogen supply center by as early as 2016, according to a report in The Japan Times, via Fukushima Minpo. The project will test and refine a model of hydrogen-supply infrastructure, which would then be used in creating a functioning supply center.

The project is a collaboration between the prefecture and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), the parent of FREA. AIST established FREA in April 2014 to promote R&D into renewable energy. FREA has two basic missions: the promotion of R&D into renewable energy, which is open to the world; and making a contribution to industrial clusters and reconstruction.

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Stanford team develops new low-voltage single-catalyst water splitter for hydrogen production

June 23, 2015

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a new low-voltage, single-catalyst water splitter that continuously generates hydrogen and oxygen. An open access paper describing the synthesis and functionality of the bi-functional non-noble metal oxide nanoparticle electrocatalysts appears in the journal Nature Communications.

In the reported study, the new catalyst achieved 10 mA cm−2 water-splitting current at only 1.51 V for more than 200 h without degradation in a two-electrode configuration and 1 M KOH—better than the combination of iridium and platinum as benchmark catalysts.

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McGill team develops simple system for reversible H2 storage using organic cyclic hydrocarbons; alternative route to solar fuels

June 15, 2015

A team at McGill University in Canada has developed a reversible hydrogen storage/release system based on the metal-catalyzed hydrogenation and photo-induced dehydrogenation of organic cyclic hydrocarbons at room temperature. The system, they suggest in a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, provides an alternative route to artificial photosynthesis for directly harvesting and storing solar energy in the form of chemical fuel.

The system easily switches between hydrogen addition (>97% conversion) and release (>99% conversion) with superior capacity of 7.1 H2 wt% using a rationally optimized platinum catalyst with high electron density, simply regulated by dark/light conditions. In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers reported that the photodriven dehydrogenation of cyclic alkanes gave an excellent apparent quantum efficiency of 6.0% under visible light illumination (420–600 nm) without any other energy input.

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DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Program Annual Merit Review Awards

Each year, at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Annual Merit Review and Peer Evaluation Meeting, the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program presents awards for contributions to the overall efforts of the Program and to recognize achievements in specific areas. At last week’s merit review meeting, DOE made awards to 13 engineers and researchers.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Awards. DOE awarded two Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program awards: one to George Parks of Fuel Science, the other to Jesse Schneider of BMW. (Schneider also recently received the 2015 James M. Crawford Technical Standards Board Outstanding Achievement Award from SAE for his work on hydrogen standards.)

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SAE World Congress panel highlights progress on H2 infrastructure and fuel cell vehicle commercialization

May 12, 2015

Although the SAE World Congress has been running panel sessions on fuel cell vehicle commercialization since 2005, this year was the first in which three participating automakers—Toyota, Hyundai and Honda—had fuel cell vehicles that customers can buy now or within a year. (Earlier post.) Many other OEMs are also working on development of fuel cell vehicles as well.

The PFL 799 technical executive expert panel at this year’s world Congress, chaired by Jesse Schneider (from BMW), invited those automakers as well as infrastructure leaders to discuss their progress in fuel cell technology and hydrogen infrastructure and challenges remaining. Participants included Hyundai, GM, Honda, Toyota, Linde and Air Liquide.

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US-China team develops new class of catalyst superior to platinum for H2O splitting and H2 generation

May 11, 2015

Potential sweeps caused substantial activity degradation for the Pt catalyst, but nearly no activity change for the NiAu/Au catalyst. Credit: ACS, Lv et al.. Click to enlarge.

A team from Brown University, Wuhan University of Technology (China), Cal State University Northridge and Harbin Institute of Technology (China) has developed a new catalyst for a highly efficient hydrogen evolution reaction based on core/shell NiAu/Au nanoparticles (NPs).

In their paper, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers go on to suggest that their approach is not limited to NiAu but can be extended to FeAu and CoAu as well, providing a general approach to MAu/Au NPs as a class of new catalyst with platinum-like activity and much superior durability for water splitting and hydrogen generation.

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EPFL team develops effective membrane-less electrolysis process for H2 production; potential to outperform conventional designs

April 28, 2015

Researchers at EPFL in Switzerland have developed a system for producing hydrogen through a simplified membrane-less water electrolysis process. By working with the balance between fluid mechanic forces, the researchers eliminated the expensive membrane that sits between the electrodes in conventional electrolysis systems.

The membrane-less approach demonstrates for the first time an electrolyzer capable of operating robustly and continuously with various catalysts and electrolytes across the pH scale, while at the same time generating hydrogen gas streams the oxygen content of which is well below the safety limit. An open access paper on their discovery is published in the RSC journal Energy and Environmental Science.

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Self-propelled catalytic microparticles boost hydrogen release from liquid storage media

April 27, 2015

Researchers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have developed catalytically active micromotors that significantly increase the release of hydrogen from liquid storage media. In a paper in the journal Angewandte Chemie, they introduce their new concept with a model vehicle powered by a hydrogen–oxygen fuel cell.

The new motion-based H2-generation concept relies on the continuous movement of Pt-black/Ti Janus microparticle motors in a solution of sodium borohydride (NaBH4). The autonomous motion of catalytic micromotors in the NaBH4 solution and their effective bubble generation provide a favorable hydrodynamic environment that significantly enhances the fuel supply to the catalytic surface, and thus to rapid H2 generation, compared with that obtained from a static catalyst: about 9.2-times more rapid.

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Virginia Tech team engineers optimized synthetic enzymatic pathway for high-yield production of H2 directly from biomass

April 07, 2015

A team of Virginia Tech researchers and colleagues has demonstrated the complete conversion of glucose and xylose from pretreated plant biomass to H2 and CO2 based on an in vitro synthetic enzymatic pathway crafted from more than 10 purified enzymes. Glucose and xylose were simultaneously converted to H2 with a yield of two H2 per carbon, the maximum possible yield.

The researchers used a nonlinear kinetic model fitted with experimental data to identify the enzymes that had the greatest impact on reaction rate and yield. After optimizing enzyme loadings using this model, volumetric H2 productivity was increased 3-fold to 32 mmol H2⋅L−1⋅h−1. The productivity was further enhanced to 54 mmol H2⋅L−1⋅h−1 by increasing reaction temperature, substrate, and enzyme concentrations—an increase of 67-fold compared with the initial studies using this method.

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ITM Power awarded US$4.3M for hydrogen refueling stations in London

March 30, 2015

ITM Power has been awarded a total of £2.89 million (US$4.3 million) by the UK Hydrogen Refueling Stations (HRS) Infrastructure Grants Scheme, run by the Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV). The award is to build two new HRS in London, sited with strategic partners and for the upgrading of four existing ITM Power refueling stations.

£1.89 million ($2.8 million) has been awarded to ITM Power and its partners to invest in two new HRS in London at strategic locations suitable for Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) roll-out. Both HRS will incorporate on-site hydrogen generation using the company’s PEM HGas electrolyzer platform. ITM Power will work closely with OEM FCEV providers to determine the best locations for siting.

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DOE 2015 SBIR/STTR Phase 2 Release 1 awards include 3 hydrogen projects

March 24, 2015

The US Department of Energy announced 94 2015 Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Phase 2 Release 1 Awards, including three Office of Science projects focusing on hydrogen production from electrolysis and hydrogen systems supporting fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). The 94 projects will receive about $96 million in total funding.

DOE’s key hydrogen objectives are to reduce the cost of producing and delivering hydrogen to less than $4 per gallon of gasoline equivalent (gge) to enable fuel cell vehicles to be competitive with gasoline vehicles. Key fuel cell objectives are to reduce fuel cell system cost to $40/kW and improve durability to 5,000 hours (equivalent to 150,000 miles of driving) for automotive fuel cell systems by 2020.

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New UK Energy & Fuels 2050 transportation roadmap highlights important role of drop-in fuels and power-to-gas

March 23, 2015

Professor Neville Jackson, Ricardo’s chief technology and innovation officer, presented the results of a research project carried out by the Automotive Council UK to establish a long-term (to 2050) transition from current gasoline and diesel fuels to a majority renewable energy portfolio. Inputs to the new Energy & Fuels Roadmap included recent UK & EU studies on automotive technologies, as well as roadmaps for passenger cars, commercial vehicles and internal combustion engines previously published by the Automotive Cuncil.

The research, presented at last week’s Open Forum organized by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in London, aimed to create a high level consensus view for the future of transport energy in the UK. Chaired by Professor Jackson of Ricardo, the research team that produced the report was made up of representatives drawn from a wide range of industry stakeholder organizations including BP, Shell, Jaguar LandRover, Caterpillar, the Energy Technologies Institute, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, E4tech, Element Energy and Associated British Foods.

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New Rutgers non-noble metal catalyst for hydrogen evolution performs as well as Pt in both acid and base

March 22, 2015

Researchers at Rutgers University have developed a new noble metal-free catalyst—Ni5P4 (nickel-5 phosphide-4)—performing on par with platinum for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) in both strong acid and base. The development, the team concludes in a paper published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, can offer a key step towards industrially relevant electrolyzers competing with conventional H2 sources.

Currently, renewable hydrogen may be produced from water by electrolysis with either low efficiency alkaline electrolyzers that suffer 50–65% losses, or by more efficient acidic electrolyzers using expensive rare platinum group metal catalysts (Pt). Consequently, the authors noted, research has focused on developing alternative, cheap, and robust catalysts made from earth-abundant elements.

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New bimetallic copper-titanium hydrogen evolution catalyst outperforms platinum by more than 2x

March 17, 2015

Modeling study showing possible bimetallic sites on a Ti-modified Cu surface. The two Cu-Cu-Ti hollow sites exhibit HBE values close to that of Pt. The Cu-Ti-Ti hollow site binds hydrogen too strongly. Lu et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from the University of Delaware and Columbia University, with colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, reports that a new hierarchical nanoporous copper-titanium bimetallic electrocatalyst is able to produce hydrogen from water under a mild overpotential at more than twice the rate of state-of-the-art carbon-supported platinum catalyst. An open-access paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Although copper and titanium are poor hydrogen evolution catalysts by themselves, the combination of the two creates unique copper-copper-titanium hollow sites which have a hydrogen-binding energy (HBE) very similar to that of platinum, resulting in an exceptional hydrogen evolution activity, the team found. In addition, the hierarchical porosity of the nanoporous​copper-titanium catalyst provides a large-surface area for electrocatalytic hydrogen evolution, and improves the mass transport properties. Further, the catalyst is self-supported, eliminating the overpotential associated with the catalyst/support interface.

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Highly efficient nickel-iron/nickel foam electrode for OER in water-splitting

Researchers from the University of New South Wales (Australia) have developed a highly efficient electrode for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) in water-splitting that has the potential to be scaled up for industrial production of hydrogen. An open-access paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Create by the electrodeposition of amorphous mesoporous nickel–iron composite nanosheets directly onto macroporous nickel foam substrates, the OER electrode exhibits high catalytic activity towards water oxidation in alkaline solutions, which only requires an overpotential of 200 mV to initiate the reaction, and is capable of delivering current densities of 500 and 1,000 mA cm−2 at overpotentials of 240 and 270 mV, respectively. The electrode also shows prolonged stability against bulk​water electrolysis at large current.

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H2 Logic delivers H2 fast fueling station for Hamburg; first to achieve German CEP SAE J2601 approval

Shell Deutschland Oil GmbH inaugurated a new hydrogen fueling station based on H2Station technology from H2 Logic in Hamburg. The fueling station is the first in Germany to achieve Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) approval in accordance with the latest 2014 version of the SAE J2601 after third-party acceptance and verification tests. The standard ensures a fast and reliable fueling of hydrogen at 70MPa pressure, which provides long driving range. (Earlier post.)

The new hydrogen refueling station in Hamburg is part of a planned initial network of 50 stations in the country by 2015. This will be a first step in a planned continued roll-out of up to 400 stations onwards 2023, as part of the €350-million (US$369-million) H2Mobility Germany initiative.

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UW-Madison team develops novel hydrogen-producing photoelectrochemical cell using solar-driven biomass conversion as anode reaction

March 11, 2015

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed an innovative hydrogen-producing photoelectrochemical cell (PEC), using solar-driven biomass conversion as the anode reaction. In a paper in the journal Nature Chemistry, the duo reports obtaining a near-quantitative yield and 100% Faradaic efficiency at ambient conditions without the use of precious-metal catalysts for this reaction, which is also thermodynamically and kinetically more favorable than conventional water oxidation at the anode. They thus demonstrated the utility of solar energy for biomass conversion (rather than catalysts) as well as the feasibility of using an oxidative biomass conversion reaction as an anode reaction in a hydrogen-forming PEC.

Chemistry Professor Kyoung-Shin Choi and postdoc Hyun Gil Cha said that their results suggest that solar-driven biomass conversion can be a viable anode reaction that has the potential to increase both the efficiency and the utility of PECs constructed for solar-fuel production.

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DOE to award up to $35M to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies; fuel cell range extenders

March 03, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced (DOE-FOA-0001224) up to $35 million in available funding to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, and to enable early adoption of fuel cell applications, such as light duty fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). (Earlier post.)

As FCEVs become increasingly commercially available, the Energy Department is focused on reducing the costs and increasing technical advancements of critical hydrogen infrastructure including production, delivery, and storage. This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) covers a broad spectrum of the Fuel Cell Technology Office (FCTO) portfolio with areas of interest ranging from research and development (R&D) to demonstration and deployment projects.

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DOE to issue $35M funding opportunity for hydrogen and fuel cell technology; Class 1-2 fuel cell plug-in hybrids

January 24, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) intends to issue a $35-million funding opportunity (FOA DE-FOA-0001224) (earlier post) covering a broad spectrum of its Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) portfolio with topics ranging from research and development (R&D) to demonstration and deployment projects.

In particular, the R&D areas of interest for this FOA will include hydrogen production via microbial biomass conversion; low PGM (Platinum Group Metal) catalyst development for PEM fuel cell applications; development of an integrated intelligent hydrogen dispenser; and fuel cell and hydrogen manufacturing R&D focusing on hydrogen delivery pipeline manufacturing R&D. This FOA also includes demonstration topic areas that will help to accelerate adoption of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies with specific interest in mobile hydrogen refuelers; fuel cell powered range extenders for light duty hybrid electric vehicles; and a Communities of Excellence topic featuring hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

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HZB researchers characterize efficient manganese catalyst for artificial photosynthesis

January 22, 2015

Scientists at the Helmholtz Center for Materials and Energy (HZB) in collaboration with the School of Chemistry and ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science at Monash University, Australia, have precisely characterized the electronic states of a manganese (Mn) water-splitting catalyst for artificial photosynthesis.

The team led by Professor Emad Aziz, head of the HZB Institute “Methods for Material Development“ and Professor Leone Spiccia from Monash University investigated the changes in the local electronic structure of the Mn  3d orbitals of a Mn catalyst derived from a dinuclear MnIII complex during the water oxidation cycle using X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and resonant inelastic X-ray scattering (RIXS) analyses.

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Cal State LA hydrogen station becomes first in state certified to sell to the public by the kilogram

January 21, 2015

The Cal State L.A. (CSULA) Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility has become the first hydrogen station in California to be certified to sell fuel to the public by the kilogram measure. Although the state currently has other other hydrogen stations “open to the public”, these stations have had to sell hydrogen by the tank, explained Michael Dray, the technical operations manager of the Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility at CSULA.

Selling by the tank required a flat price be paid, irrespective of the actual amount of hydrogen dispensed. The state Division of Measurement Standards barred even a mention of a sale price per unit, Dray said.

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NCSU team develops catalyst for thermal hybrid water-splitting and syngas generation with exceptional conversion; H2 gas and liquid fuels

January 19, 2015

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a highly effective new perovskite-promoted iron oxide redox catalyst for a hybrid solar-redox scheme they had proposed earlier for partial oxidation and water-splitting of methane.

In a paper published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, Feng He and Fanxing Li report that the new material—lanthanum strontium ferrite (La0.8Sr0.2FeO3-δ or LSF) supported Fe3O4—is capable of converting more than 67% steam with high redox stability. In contrast, previously reported ferrite materials typically exhibit 20% or lower steam to hydrogen conversion.

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Review paper: Graphene and related materials (GRMs) may play major role in energy applications

January 02, 2015

The large specific surface area (SSA)—i.e., the surface-to-mass ratio—of graphene, combined with its high electrical conductivity, high mechanical strength, ease of functionalization, and potential for mass production, makes it an extremely attractive platform for energy applications, such as a transparent conductive electrode for solar cells or as flexible high-capacity electrode in lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors, notes a team of researchers from Europe, the US and Korea, in a paper reviewing the role of graphene and related systems for energy conversion and storage published in the journal Science. The combination of chemical functionalization and curvature control also opens new opportunities for hydrogen storage.

In addition to graphene, they note, other two-dimensional crystals such as the transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) display insulating, semiconducting (with band gaps in the visible region of the spectrum), and metallic behavior and can enable novel device architectures also in combination with graphene. As with graphene, these materials can be integrated on flexible surfaces and can be mass-produced. Yet another class of 2D crystals is the MXenes (e.g., earlier post)—layered, hexagonal carbides and nitrides that can accommodate various ions and molecules between their layers by intercalation. MXene sheets are promising for energy applications, such as lithium-ion batteries, supercapacitors, and hydrogen storage.

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GWU team uses one-pot process to co-generate H2 and solid carbon from water and CO2; solar fuels

December 30, 2014

One-pot electrolytic process produces H2 and solid carbon from water and CO2. Li et al. Click to enlarge.

A team at George Washington University led by Professor Stuart Licht has simultaneously co-generated hydrogen and solid carbon fuels from water and CO2 using a mixed hydroxide/carbonate electrolyte in a “single-pot” electrolytic synthesis at temperatures below 650 ˚C. The work is a further development of their work with STEP (solar thermal electrochemical process)—an efficient solar chemical process, based on a synergy of solar thermal and endothermic electrolyses, introduced by Licht and his colleagues in 2009. (Earlier post, earlier post.) (In short, STEP uses solar thermal energy to increase the system temperature to decrease electrolysis potentials.)

Licht and his colleagues over the past few years have delineated the solar, optical, and electronic components of STEP. In this study, they focused on the electrolysis component for STEP fuel, producing hydrogen and graphitic carbon from water and carbon dioxide. A paper on the new work is published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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