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[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.]

Argonne team develops synthetic bionano membrane to convert light to hydrogen

October 16, 2017

A team led by researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has developed a new way to produce solar fuels by using completely synthetic bionano machinery to harvest light without the need for a living cell. The researchers’ device, reported in the journal ACS Nano as a “synthetic purple membrane,” contains tiny discs of lipids, man-made proteins and semiconducting nanoparticles that, when taken together, can transform sunlight into hydrogen fuel.

The system produces hydrogen at a turnover of about 240 μmol of H2 (μmol protein)−1 h–1 and 17.74 mmol of H2 (μmol protein)−1 h–1 under monochromatic green and white light, respectively, at ambient conditions, in water at neutral pH and room temperature, with methanol as a sacrificial electron donor.

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Ceramic pump moves molten metal at a record 1,400 ˚C; new avenues for energy storage and hydrogen production

October 12, 2017

A ceramic-based mechanical pump able to operate at record temperatures of more than 1,400 ˚C (1,673 K) can transfer high-temperature liquids such as molten tin, enabling a new generation of energy conversion and storage systems. The pump was developed by researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, with collaborators from Purdue University and Stanford University. The research was supported by the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) and reported in the journal Nature.

The new pump could facilitate high efficiency, low-cost thermal storage, providing a new way to store renewable energy generated by wind and solar power, and facilitate an improved process for generating hydrogen directly from fuels such as methane without producing carbon dioxide. Use of ceramic components, normally considered too brittle for mechanical systems, was made possible by precision machining and seals made from another high-temperature material: graphite.

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New hybrid photocatalyst for highly efficient hydrogen production from water

October 06, 2017

Researchers at the University of Central Florida, with colleagues at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Tsinghua University, developed a new hybrid nanomaterial—a nonmetal plasmonic MoS2@TiO2 heterostructure—for highly efficient photocatalytic H2 generation from water.

As reported in an open access paper in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the new catalyst is not only able to harvest a much broader spectrum of light than other materials, but can also stand up to the harsh conditions found in seawater.

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Spanish researchers propose new LOHC-based system for on-demand hydrogen production, storage and transport

September 25, 2017

A group of researchers in Spain—from the Universitat Jaume I de Castelló, the University of Zaragoza and the Institute of Chemical Technology of the Universitat Politècnica de València-CSIC—coordinated by Professor José Antonio Mata of the UJI, have developed and patented a new procedure for the efficient on-demand production, storage and safe transport of hydrogen based on the use of liquid hydrogen organic carriers (LOHC).

The research team has studied different hydrogen-bearing organic liquids to arrive at the new hydrogen storage system based on a chemical coupling reaction between a hydrosilane and an alcohol catalyzed by a ruthenium compound supported in graphene. Their paper is published in Chemistry: a European Journal.

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Navigant forecasts transportation demand for hydrogen to accelerate Power-to-Gas growth

September 20, 2017

Navigant Research forecasts that the transportation segment, with hydrogen demand as a catalyst, will jump-start power-to-gas (P2G) demand and further drive down electrolyzer and other infrastructure costs.

P2G—the conversion of electrical power into gaseous energy carriers—has been held back from mass adoption by high costs, regulatory hurdles, and difficulties with infrastructure. However, Navigant suggests, as the levelized cost of renewable energy falls and as electrolyzer technologies improve and decline in price, P2G business models are taking shape.

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New TOTAL hydrogen filling station in Karlsruhe produces H2 onsite with steam electrolysis and solar energy

September 07, 2017

A new TOTAL hydrogen filling station on Karlsruhe’s Südtangente ring-road was commissioned on Wednesday. The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure approved grants of approx. €970,000 (US$1.2 million) for the hydrogen facility under its National Innovation Program for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP).

This H2 filling station—the eleventh in the TOTAL network and the tenth in the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg—is differentiated by producing hydrogen on-site through steam electrolysis, using electricity generated by a solar array.

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Van Hool consortium to deploy first hydrogen bus route in France; green hydrogen for bus rapid transit

September 01, 2017

A consortium comprising bus-maker Van Hool, ITM Power, SMTU-PPP and Engie will deploy the first hydrogen bus route in France, in Pau. François Bayrou, President of the community of Pau Béarn Pyrénées, made the announcement about the creation of this “zero emission” bus rapid transit (BRT) route, which will be operated by the Pau transport operator companies SMTU-PPP and STAP starting in September 2019 between the hospital and the railway station in Pau.

Fueled by hydrogen from renewable sources (“green hydrogen”), eight 18-meter articulated buses from the Bus Rapid Transit service line (BHNS) will be operating on the streets of Pau within two years. The buses will form an artery of the new transportation network designed by the City within its urban redevelopment project aimed at improving the perception and use of public spaces in a sustainable way.

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Shell, ITM Power to install 10MW electrolyzer for refinery hydrogen

Shell, together with ITM Power, plans to install a 10MW electrolyzer to produce hydrogen at the Wesseling refinery site within the Rheinland Refinery Complex. This would be the largest unit of its kind in Germany and the world’s largest PEM (Polymer Electrolyte Membrane) electrolyzer.

Today, the refinery uses approximately 180,000 tons of hydrogen per year in its various plants. The hydrogen is currently produced as a byproduct of the refining process or through natural gas reforming; electrolysis instead uses electricity to split water into the base components of hydrogen and oxygen. Electrolysis using low-cost renewable electricity could be a key technology for CO2-free hydrogen production in the Shell Rheinland Refinery.

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WPI team develops sandwiched liquid metal membrane for H2 purification as alternative to Pd; lowering costs for fuel cell vehicles

August 29, 2017

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have developed a novel sandwiched liquid metal membrane (SLiMM) for hydrogen separation. Separation membranes hold the key to making hydrogen fuel cheaper; the researchers have shown that membranes made with liquid metals appear to be more efficient at separating hydrogen than conventional palladium membranes while also being less expensive and more durable.

The WPI team reported that their Ga/SiC SLiMM has a permeability of 2.75 x 10-7 mol/ms·Pa0.5 at 500°C—35 times higher than that for Pd under similar conditions. This promises a potential for application of SliMM in hydrogen purification, they concluded in their paper, published in the AIChE Journal.

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Metallic nanostructures with strong light confinement can triple the efficiency of solar-based hydrogen generation

Researchers led by a team from KAUST have found a more sustainable route to hydrogen fuel production using chaotic, light-trapping materials that mimic natural photosynthetic water splitting. In a paper in the journal Advanced Materials, the researchers report a new photocatalyst for hydrogen evolution based on metal epsilon-near-zero (ENZ) metamaterials.

The authors designed these to achieve broadband strong light confinement at the metal interface across the entire solar spectrum. Using electron energy loss spectroscopy, the authors show that hot carriers are generated in a broadband fashion within 10 nm in this system. The resulting photocatalyst achieves a hydrogen production rate of 9.5 µmol h−1 cm−2 that exceeds, by a factor of 3.2, that of the best previously reported plasmonic-based photocatalysts for the dissociation of H2 with 50 h stable operation.

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DOE issues $6M request for proposals for H2@Scale projects

August 21, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for proposals (H2_AT_SCALE_CRADA_CALL) for research projects that address the Hydrogen at Scale (H2@Scale) concept (earlier post), which enables wide-scale production and use of hydrogen to address issues such as grid resiliency, energy storage and security, domestic job creation, and domestic leadership in innovation.

In 2016, DOE national laboratories identified the potential of hydrogen to decarbonize deeply a multitude of sectors in a proposal termed “H2@Scale”. Preliminary analysis performed by the national laboratories on the H2@Scale concept indicated that nearly a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is possible by 2050 via such large-scale hydrogen production and use.

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ARB report: 1,600 fuel cell vehicles in California, 29 stations active; need to accelerate station deployment

August 18, 2017

As of 5 April 2017, California has more than 1,600 fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) with active registrations with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), according to the 2017 issue of its Annual Evaluation of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Deployment and Hydrogen Fuel Station Network Development released by the California Air Resources Board (ARB). This represents a net addition of 1,300 FCEVs (1,600 currently registered vs. 331 at the same time last year.

The report also identified 29 currently Open-Retail hydrogen fueling stations from as far south as San Diego, to the coastline in Santa Barbara, and as far to the northeast as Truckee. This represents an increase of 9 fueling stations since June 2016.

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Power-to-gas trial to inject hydrogen into Australia’s gas grid; A$5M award to AquaHydrex

August 09, 2017

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced a trial for a new type of electrolyzer which could see excess renewable energy stored in the gas grid and used to decarbonize Australia’s gas supply.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA has provided A$5 million (US$4 million) in funding to Wollongong-based AquaHydrex to develop commercially its new class of electrolyzer to produce cheap hydrogen from splitting water. In partnership with Australian Gas Networks (AGN), which owns the gas distribution network in South Australia, AquaHydrex will design and build an electrolyzer pilot plant to trial injecting a small amount of hydrogen into the South Australian gas grid in a process known as “power-to-gas”.

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Rice University lab develops dual-surface graphene electrode to split water into hydrogen and oxygen

August 04, 2017

Researchers in the Rice University lab of chemist James Tour have produced dual-surface laser-induced graphene (LIG) electrodes on opposing faces of a plastic sheet that split water into hydrogen on one side and oxygen on the other side. The high porosity and electrical conductivity of LIG facilitates the efficient contact and charge transfer with the requisite electrolyte. A paper on the work is published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

The LIG-based electrodes exhibit high performance for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) and oxygen evolution reaction (OER) with excellent long-term stability. The overpotential reaches 100 mA/cm2 for HER and OER is as low as 214 and 380 mV with relatively low Tafel slopes of 54 and 49 mV/dec, respectively. (One decade (symbol dec) is a factor of 10 difference between two numbers measured on a log scale.)

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Army Research Lab discovers aluminum nanomaterial rapidly splits water on contact

August 03, 2017

Researchers at the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) have discovered that a nano-galvanic aluminum-based powder of their design splits water on contact, producing hydrogen and oxygen. Scientists have known for a long time that hydrogen can be produced by adding a catalyst—such as sodium or potassium hydroxide or an acid—to aluminum. However, these methods take time, elevated temperature, and added electricity.

The ARL powder does not need a catalyst; it is also very fast. “We have calculated that one kilogram of aluminum powder can produce 220 kW of energy in just three minutes. That’s a lot of power to run any electrical equipment. These rates are the fastest known without using catalysts such as an acid, base or elevated temperatures,” said Dr. Anit Giri, a physicist with the lab’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate.

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Rice, Lawrence Livermore scientists develop new efficient non-Pt MX2 catalyst for efficient hydrogen production; Materials Genome Initiative in action

August 01, 2017

Scientists at Rice University and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have predicted and created new two-dimensional electrocatalysts—low-cost, layered transition-metal dichalcogenides (MX2) based on molybdenum and tungsten—to extract hydrogen from water with high performance and low cost. In the process, they also created a simple model to screen materials for catalytic activity.

In a paper in Nature Energy, the report that the materials, beyond demonstrating high catalytic activity, exhibit an unusual ability to optimize their morphology for enhanced charge transfer and accessibility of active sites as the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) proceeds, thereby offering a practical advantage for scalable processing. The catalysts reach 10 mA cm−2 current density at an overpotential of ∼50–60mV with a loading of 10–55 μg cm−2,surpassing other reported MX2 candidates without any performance-enhancing additives.

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Toyota Mobility Foundation launches research program to support innovative hydrogen energy solutions

July 31, 2017

The Toyota Mobility Foundation (TMF) has launched a research program to spur the development of a “hydrogen society”—envisioned as a set of communities with integrated, green-energy networks powered by mini-hydrogen plants that aim to create a carbon-free, hydrogen distribution system. TMF has begun soliciting research proposals under this new program.

TMF will emphasize innovations in the generation; storage and transport; and applications of hydrogen when screening the submitted proposals. A panel of hydrogen and energy experts from universities and public-sector research organizations will review the proposals and oversee their selection.

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Japan launches first global hydrogen supply chain demo project; liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC) technology

July 28, 2017

Four Japanese companies—Chiyoda, Mitsubishi, Mitsui and Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha—have launched the “Advanced Hydrogen Energy Chain Association for Technology Development”(AHEAD) along with the world’s first Global Hydrogen Supply Chain Demonstration Project.

The project, a subsidized “Technology Development Project to establish Hydrogen Society/Technology Development for the Utilization of Large Scale Hydrogen Energy”, is funded by the National Research and Development Agency, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), and demonstrates the use of liquid organic chemical hydrides in the hydrogen supply chain.

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New robust triple-layer bifunctional catalyst for water splitting with earth-abundant materials

July 27, 2017

A new robust and highly active bifunctional catalyst developed by Rice University and the University of Houston splits water into hydrogen and oxygen without the need for expensive metals such as platinum. The work, the team suggests, provides a facile strategy for fabricating highly efficient electrocatalysts from earth-abundant materials for overall water splitting.

The electrolytic film produced at Rice and tested at Houston is a three-layer structure of nickel, graphene and a ternary metal phosphide (FeMnP, iron, manganese and phosphorus). The foamy nickel gives the film a large surface, the conductive graphene protects the nickel from degrading and the metal phosphide carries out the reaction. A paper on the work is published in the journal Nano Energy.

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German team clarifies key catalytic step in enzymatic production of hydrogen

July 25, 2017

Enzymes, called [FeFe]-hydrogenases, efficiently turn electrons and protons into hydrogen; they are thus a candidate for the biotechnological production of the potential energy source. For years, researchers had assumed that a highly unstable intermediate state had to exist in the reaction. No one was able to verify this. Until now.

Now, researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum and the Freie Universität Berlin have clarified the crucial catalytic step in the production of hydrogen by enzymes. Led by Prof. Thomas Happe and Dr. Martin Winkler from the Bochum-based Photobiotechnology Working Group, with Berlin-based colleagues led by Dr. Sven Stripp, the team reports on the results in an open-access paper in the journal Nature Communications.

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Toyota and partners begin full-scale operation of showcase project to supply low-carbon H2 to fuel cell forklifts

July 13, 2017

A Japanese partnership, consisting of the Kanagawa Prefectural Government, the municipal governments of the cities of Yokohama and Kawasaki, Iwatani Corporation, Toshiba Corporation, Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Industries Corporation, Toyota Turbine and Systems, Inc., and Japan Environment Systems Co., Ltd. announced that all facilities to be used in the FY2015 Regional Cooperation and Low-carbon Hydrogen Technology Demonstration Project commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment have been completed, and full-scale operations have commenced.

The goal of the project is to implement and evaluate a low-carbon hydrogen supply chain which will utilize hydrogen produced from renewable energy in facilities along Tokyo Bay (in Yokohama and Kawasaki) to power 12 fuel cell forklifts. The project aims to construct a low-carbon hydrogen supply chain that can reduce overall CO2 emissions by at least 80% when compared with conventional approaches.

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New catalyst supports ultra-low-temperature water-gas-shift reaction for hydrogen production

July 06, 2017

Researchers from China and the US have synthesized gold layered clusters on an α-MoC substrate to create an interfacial catalyst system for the ultra-low-temperature water-gas shift (WGS) reaction for the production of high-purity hydrogen and concomitant utilization of carbon monoxide (CO). The discovery, described in a paper in the journal Science, could improve the performance of fuel cells that run on hydrogen fuel but can be poisoned by CO.

In the work described in the paper, water was activated over α-MoC at 303 K (30 ˚C), while the CO adsorbed on adjacent Au sites reacted with surface hydroxyl groups formed from water splitting, leading to a high WGS activity at low-temperatures.

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Osaka team develops new solar-to-hydrogen catalyst that uses broader spectrum of light

June 26, 2017

A team at Osaka University in Japan has developed a new material based on gold and black phosphorus to harvest a broader spectrum of sunlight for water-splitting to produce hydrogen.

The three-part composite maximizes both absorbing light and its efficiency for water splitting. The core is a traditional semiconductor—lanthanum titanium oxide (LTO). The LTO surface is partly coated with gold nanoparticles. Finally, the gold-covered LTO is mixed with ultrathin sheets of the element black phosphorus (BP), which acts as a light absorber. The optimum H2 production rates of BP-Au/LTO were about 0.74 and 0.30 mmol g-1 h-1 at wavelengths longer than 420 nm and 780 nm, respectively. A paper on the team’s work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie: International Edition.

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New efficient, low-temperature catalyst for converting water and CO to hydrogen and CO2

June 24, 2017

Scientists in the US and China have developed a new low-temperature catalyst for producing high-purity hydrogen gas while simultaneously using up carbon monoxide (CO) via the water-gas shift (WGS) reaction. The discovery—described in a paper in the journal Science—could improve the performance of fuel cells that run on hydrogen fuel but can be poisoned by CO.

The WGS reaction (CO+H2O = H2+CO2) is an essential process for hydrogen generation and CO removal in various energy-related chemical operations. The reaction is favored at a low working temperature. Application in fuel cells requires a WGS catalyst to be highly active, stable and energy-efficient and match the working temperature of on-site hydrogen generation and consumption units.

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UK National Physical Laboratory identifies measurement challenges in the hydrogen industry

June 13, 2017

The UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has published a report which highlights and prioritizes the current measurement challenges facing the hydrogen industry. The report emphasizes the importance of addressing these challenges should hydrogen play a significant role in a transition to a decarbonized energy system.

NPL is the UK’s National Measurement Institute, and is a world-leading center of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards, science and technology available. NPL has developed and maintained the UK’s primary measurement standards for more than a century.

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Molybdenum coating improves the efficiency of water-splitting catalysts for producing hydrogen

June 12, 2017

Researchers at KAUST have developed a novel molybdenum-coated catalyst that can efficiently split water in acidic electrolytes and that could help with the efficient production of hydrogen.

Scientists are searching for ways of improving the water-splitting reaction by developing an optimal catalyst. While many different materials have been tried, they are usually adversely affected by the oxygen that is also created alongside the hydrogen during the process. The two gaseous products can easily recombine back to water due to reverse water-forming reactions, hindering the production of hydrogen.

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Soletair demo plant produces renewable hydrocarbon fuel from CO2 captured from the air

June 09, 2017

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) are beginning testing of the Soletair demo plant, which uses air-captured carbon dioxide to produce renewable fuels and chemicals. The pilot plant is coupled to LUT’s solar power plant in Lappeenranta.

The aim of the project is to demonstrate the technical performance of the overall process and produce 200 liters of fuels and other hydrocarbons for research purposes. The demo plant incorporates the entire process chain, and comprises four separate units: a solar power plant; equipment for separating carbon dioxide and water from the air; a section that uses electrolysis to produce hydrogen; and synthesis equipment for producing a crude-oil substitute from carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

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UNSW Sydney team develops inexpensive water-splitting catalyst using 2D MOF framework array

June 06, 2017

UNSW Sydney chemists have fabricated a new, inexpensive catalyst for water splitting based on an ultrathin nanosheet array of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) on different substrates.

Their nickel-iron-based metal-organic framework array (NiFe-MOF) demonstrates superior electrocatalytic performance towards the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) with a small overpotential of 240 mV at 10 mA cm−2 and operates for 20,000 s with no detectable activity decay. The turnover frequency of the electrode is 3.8 s−1 at an overpotential of 400 mV. An open-access paper on their work is published in Nature Communications.

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BNL, VT team creates Ru,Rh supramolecular photocatalysts for enhanced hydrogen production via artificial photosynthesis

June 04, 2017

Scientists have been trying to artificially replicate photosynthesis to convert solar energy to stored chemical energy, with the objective of producing environmentally friendly and sustainable fuels, such as hydrogen and methanol. However, mimicking key functions of the photosynthetic center, where specialized biomolecules carry out photosynthesis, has proven challenging. Artificial photosynthesis requires a molecular system that can absorb light; transport and separate electrical charge; and catalyze fuel-producing reactions. These complicated processes must operate synchronously to achieve high energy-conversion efficiency.

Now, chemists from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and Virginia Tech have designed two supramolecular photocatalysts that incorporate individual components specialized for light absorption, charge separation, or catalysis. In both molecular systems, multiple light-harvesting centers made of ruthenium (Ru) metal ions are connected to a single catalytic center made of rhodium (Rh) metal ions through a bridging molecule that promotes electron transfer from the Ru centers to the Rh catalyst, where hydrogen is produced. A paper on the work is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Penn State, FSU team develops low-cost, efficient layered heterostructure catalyst for water-splitting

June 02, 2017

A team of scientists from Penn State and Florida State University have developed a lower cost and industrially scalable catalyst consisting of synthesized stacked graphene and WxMo1–xS2 alloy phases that produces pure hydrogen through a low-energy water-splitting process.

The results of their study, published in the journal ACS Nano, indicate that heterostructures formed by graphene and W0.4Mo0.6S2 alloys are far more efficient than WS2 and MoS2 by at least a factor of 2, and they are superior compared to other reported transition-metal dichalcogenide (TMD) systems. The researchers suggested that their strategy offers a cheap and low temperature synthesis alternative able to replace Pt in the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER).

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Bochum chemists develop method to produce self-healing catalyst films for hydrogen production

May 27, 2017

Chemically aggressive conditions prevail during the electrochemical splitting of water to produce hydrogen, wearing out the catalysts used. Further, engineering stable electrodes using highly active catalyst nanopowders for electrochemical water splitting remains a notorious challenge.

Now, chemists at the Centre for Electrochemical Sciences at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have devised an innovative and general approach for attaining highly stable catalyst films with self-healing capability based on in-situ self-assembly of catalyst particles during electrolysis. A team comprising Stefan Barwe, Prof Dr Wolfgang Schuhmann and Dr Edgar Ventosa from the Bochum Chair of Analytical Chemistry reports on this in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition. The work took place as part of the cluster of excellence Resolv.

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DOE moving forward with $11.1M in funding for three ARPA-E projects

May 19, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it is honoring commitments to several previously selected Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awardees, with funding of a combined $11.1 million. They are among the first awardees to move forward following the Department’s review of all taxpayer funded grants and projects, intended to ensure that each award applied good governance principles consistent with the new Administration’s policy directives.

The projects moving forward are part of ARPA-E’s Next-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Autonomous On-Road Vehicles (NEXTCAR) (earlier post) and Renewable Energy to Fuels Through Utilization of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL) (earlier post) programs. Additional awardees are expected to move forward in the coming weeks.

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New mesocrystal photocatalyst enhances light-driven hydrogen production

May 18, 2017

A group of Japanese researchers has developed a novel photocatalyst for increased hydrogen production. The strontium titanate mesocrystal exhibits three times the efficiency for hydrogen evolution compared to conventional disordered systems in alkaline aqueous solution. The mesocrystal also exhibits a high quantum yield of 6.7% at 360 nm in overall water splitting and even good durability up to 1 day.

The discovery was made by a joint research team led by Associate Professor Takashi Tachikawa (Molecular Photoscience Research Center, Kobe University) and Professor Tetsuro Majima (Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, Osaka University). Their findings were published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

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CSIRO team working to commercialize membrane separating H2 from NH3; opening up an export market for Australia renewable H2

May 17, 2017

Researchers at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have years of experience researching the best ways to separate pure hydrogen from mixed gas streams. Now, the researchers have developed a thin metal membrane that can separate high-purity hydrogen from ammonia used as a hydrogen carrier. Ammonia (NH3) has a number of favorable attributes for such an application, the primary one being its high capacity for hydrogen storage—17.6 wt.%, based on its molecular structure.

CSIRO’s vision is to use the membrane technology to open up a new world market for renewable hydrogen produced via electrolysis in Australia. The renewable hydrogen would first be converted to ammonia (in combination with nitrogen produced in a renewables-driven air separation unit), then be exported piggybacking on the existing transport infrastructure for ammonia, and finally be extracted from the ammonia using the membrane system for use in vehicles and other applications.

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UH team develops new, highly efficient and durable OER catalyst for water splitting

May 16, 2017

Researchers at the University of Houston have developed a catalyst—composed of easily available, low-cost materials and operating far more efficiently than previous catalyst—that can split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The robust oxygen-evolving electrocatalyst consists of ferrous metaphosphate on self-supported conductive nickel foam that is commercially available in large scale. The catalyst yields current densities of 10 mA/cm2 at an overpotential of 177 mV, 500 mA/cm2 at only 265 mV, and 1,705 mA/cm2 at 300 mV, with high durability in alkaline electrolyte of 1 M KOH even after 10,000 cycles. This represents an activity enhancement by a factor of 49 in boosting water oxidation at 300 mV relative to the state-of-the-art IrO2 catalyst. A paper on their work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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New light-driven photo-electrochemical cell produces hydrogen from contaminated gas, including air

May 08, 2017

Researchers from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven (University of Leuven), Belgium, have developed an all-gas-phase solid and stand-alone photo-electrochemical (PEC) cell that produces hydrogen gas from volatile organic contaminated air and light. The device recovers part of the energy stored in airborne organic pollutants by the production of hydrogen, while mineralizing the contaminants to less harmful CO2.

The PEC degrades organic contaminants and snd produces the hydrogen gas—without applying any external bias—in separate electrode compartments. Oxidation of volatile organic compounds (VOC) occurs at the photo-anode, while hydrogen is produced at the (dark) cathode on the opposite side of a proton-conducting solid electrolyte membrane. A paper on the work is published in the journal ChemSusChem.

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New molybdenum-coated catalyst produces hydrogen from water-splitting more efficiently; preventing the back reaction

May 07, 2017

Water-splitting systems require a very efficient catalyst to speed up the chemical reaction that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen, while preventing the two gases from recombining back into water. Now an international research team has developed a new catalyst with a molybdenum (Mo) coating that prevents this problematic back reaction and works well in realistic operating conditions.

The research team included scientists from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Fukuoka University, University of Tokyo, and the Center for High Pressure Science and Technology Advanced Research in Shanghai, China. The work was supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. A paper on the work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

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Oita team develops new process for producing hydrogen from ammonia without external heat source

April 29, 2017

Researchers at Oita University in Japan have developed an innovative process for the production of hydrogen from ammonia without the need for an external heat source to initiate or maintain the reaction. An open access paper on their work is published in the journal Science Advances.

Liquid ammonia (NH3) has been considered as a carrier (storage medium) for hydrogen that could alleviate the challenges of transporting, handling and storing hydrogen for commercial applications. However, the adoption of ammonia as a H2 carrier, especially for household and transportable devices, has been limited due to the lack of an efficient process for producing H2 and nitrogen by the oxidative decomposition of ammonia.

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Technion team devises method for on-demand H2 production from water and aluminum for aviation applications

April 28, 2017

Aerospace engineers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed and patented a process for on-demand hydrogen production from the reaction of activated aluminum powder and water for commercial aircraft applications. The hydrogen produced on-board during flight can be used in a fuel cell to generate electric energy for auxiliary power.

In addition to fresh water, the waste water available on-board the aircraft can be used for hydrogen generation. The researchers demonstrated high reaction rates producing about 200-600 ml/min/g Al of hydrogen at a high yield of about 90% was demonstrated. The possibility to use the available waste water leads to high specific electric energy of up to about 850 Wh/kg. The work was reported in a recent paper published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.

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USC team demonstrates novel hydrogen storage system; amine reforming of methanol

April 20, 2017

A team at the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute and Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California, has demonstrated a novel hydrogen storage system based on the release of hydrogen from catalytic dehydrogenative coupling of methanol and 1,2-diamine. The hydrogen-generating step of this process can be termed as “amine reforming of methanol”—in analogy to traditional steam methane reforming, but without the concurrent production of CO2 (unlike steam reforming) or CO (by complete methanol dehydrogenation).

A paper on the team’s work, which is part of their long-term development of aspects of the “Methanol Economy” (earlier post), is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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NREL researchers capture excess photon energy to produce solar fuels; higher efficiency water-splitting for H2

April 14, 2017

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a proof-of-principle photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) capable of capturing excess photon energy normally lost to generating heat.

Using quantum dots (QD) and a process called Multiple Exciton Generation (MEG), the NREL researchers were able to push the peak external quantum efficiency for hydrogen generation to 114%. The advancement could significantly boost the production of hydrogen from sunlight by using the cell to split water at a higher efficiency and lower cost than current photoelectrochemical approaches. The research is outlined in a paper in Nature Energy.

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KAUST team alters atomic composition of MoS2 to boost performance as water-splitting catalyst for H2 production

April 13, 2017

Researchers at KAUST have developed and used a novel way of increasing the chemical reactivity of a two-dimensional molybdenum disulfide material to produce a cheap and effective catalyst for water splitting to produce hydrogen. This technique may also have potential benefits for other manufacturing industries.

One route to hydrogen generation is by electrolysis: passing an electrical current through water via two electrodes to cause a chemical reaction that breaks the water molecule into its component hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The speed of this hydrogen evolution reaction can be increased using a catalyst on the electrodes. Platinum is a perfect material for the job, but is it very expensive.

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NREL sets new world efficiency record for solar hydrogen production: 16.2%

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recaptured the record for highest efficiency in solar hydrogen production via a photoelectrochemical (PEC) water-splitting process.

The new solar-to-hydrogen (STH) efficiency record is 16.2%, topping a reported 14% efficiency in 2015 by an international team made up of researchers from Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin, TU Ilmenau, Fraunhofer ISE and the California Institute of Technology. A paper in Nature Energy outlines how NREL’s new record was achieved. The authors are James Young, Myles Steiner, Ryan France, John Turner, and Todd Deutsch, all from NREL, and Henning Döscher of Philipps-Universität Marburg in Germany. Döscher has an affiliation with NREL.

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China team develops highly efficient catalyst for low-temperature aqueous phase refoming of methanol to produce hydrogen

April 01, 2017

Researchers in China, along with colleagues in the US, have developed a new catalyst that shows outstanding hydrogen-production activity and stability in the low-temperature aqueous phase reforming of methanol (APRM).

In a paper in the journal Nature, the team reports that platinum (Pt) atomically dispersed on α-molybdenum carbide (α-MoC) enables low-temperature (150–190 ˚C), base-free hydrogen production through APRM, with an average turnover frequency reaching 18,046 moles of hydrogen per mole of platinum per hour. The new catalyst, the researchers suggest, paves a way towards a commercially achievable hydrogen-storage strategy.

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HYREADY collaboration supports introduction of power-to-gas H2 into natural gas infrastructure

March 31, 2017

The addition of hydrogen produced by renewable sources (e.g., electrolysis powered by renewable electricity) to natural gas supports the decarbonization of the natural gas system and integration of sustainable energy sources. However, the properties of hydrogen differ significantly from those of natural gas, and its introduction into the gas infrastructure may negatively impact public safety, the integrity of the gas system and the performance of end-use equipment.

The HYREADY joint industry project (JIP), led by DNV GL, intends to encourage the industry to “Be ready for Hydrogen” by developing practical processes and procedures for the introduction of hydrogen to the grid. HYREADY focuses on the consequences of H2 added to natural gas in an existing specific network and on feasible countermeasures to mitigate these consequences.

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SoCalGas & UC Irvine show power-to-gas technology able to boost use of intermittent renewable energy significantly

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) announced that new research on power-to-gas technology shows the technique holds the ability to significantly increase the use of intermittent renewable energy. The finding came out of ongoing research conducted at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and funded by SoCalGas.

Preliminary research findings, announced this week at UCI’s International Colloquium on Environmentally Preferred Advanced Generation (ICEPAG), demonstrated that the campus microgrid could increase the portion of renewable energy it uses from 3.5% to 35% by implementing a power-to-gas strategy.

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Researchers create efficient, simple-to-manufacture photoanode for solar water-splitting

March 24, 2017

Researchers at Rice University and the University of Houston created an efficient, simple-to-manufacture core/shell photoanode with a highly active oxygen evolution electrocatalyst shell (FeMnP) and semiconductor core (rutile TiO2) for the photoelectrochemical oxygen evolution reaction (PEC-OER) for solar water splitting.

The lab of Kenton Whitmire, a Rice professor of chemistry, teamed up with researchers at the University of Houston and discovered that growing a layer of an active catalyst directly on the surface of a light-absorbing nanorod array produced an artificial photosynthesis material that could split water at the full theoretical potential of the light-absorbing semiconductor with sunlight. The results appear in two new studies. The first, on the creation of the catalytic films, appears in Chemistry: A European Journal. The second, which details the creation of photoanodes, appears in ACS Nano.

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Cambridge team demonstrates light-driven photoreforming of unprocessed biomass to H2 at room temperature

March 14, 2017

A team of scientists at the University of Cambridge has reported the light-driven photoreforming of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin to H2 using semiconducting cadmium sulfide quantum dots in alkaline aqueous solution.

The system operates under visible light, is stable beyond six days and is even able to reform unprocessed lignocellulose, such as wood and paper, under solar irradiation at room temperature, presenting an inexpensive route to drive aqueous proton reduction to H2 through waste biomass oxidation. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Energy.

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Georgia Tech team furthers four-stroke-cycle active-membrane piston reactor for enhanced SMR for H2 production

February 17, 2017

Steam methane reforming is currently the primary pathway for hydrogen production worldwide. However, due to its high operating temperature and use of sequential units for the reaction stages, industrial SMR does not scale down well for distributed, point-of-use applications such as fuel cell vehicle refueling stations.

Seeking to develop an SMR system suited for such distributed applications, a team from Georgia Tech in 2014 proposed the sorption-enhanced CO2/H2 Active Membrane Piston reactor (CHAMP-SORB)—a variable-volume batch reactor for the production of hydrogen from catalytic steam reforming of methane that operates in a cycle similar to that of an internal combustion engine. Now, in a paper published in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, the team has developed a comprehensive analysis of the system, focused on understanding the heat/mass transfer and reaction/separation interactions to develop guidelines for scale-up.

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voestalpine, Siemens & VERBUND building one of the world’s largest electrolysis plants for H2 production; EU-funded H2FUTURE

February 08, 2017

The European Commission has awarded the H2FUTURE project consortium—comprising voestalpine, Siemens, VERBUND and Austrian Power Grid (APG) as well as the research-partners K1-MET and ECN—the contract for the construction of one of the world’s largest PEM electrolysis plants for producing green hydrogen.

The project partners will work and research cooperatively on implementing an innovative hydrogen demonstration plant at the voestalpine site in Linz. The green hydrogen generated there will be fed directly into the internal gas network, allowing the testing of the use of hydrogen in various process stages of steel production.

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PNNL team develops fastest synthetic catalyst for H2 production; controlling structural dynamics for 1,000x performance boost

February 06, 2017

Using a natural catalyst from bacteria for inspiration, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have now developed the fastest synthetic catalyst for hydrogen production—producing 45 million molecules per second—by controlling the structural dynamics of the molecular catalyst. Instead of a costly metal such as platinum, this catalyst uses inexpensive, abundant nickel at its core.

Although the catalyst requires more energy to run than a conventional platinum catalyst, the insight garnered from this result might eventually help make hydrogen fuel in an environmentally friendly, affordable way, the researchers report in the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

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NREL shows graded catalytic-protective layer boosts longevity of high-efficiency photocathodes for renewable hydrogen

January 09, 2017

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a method which boosts the longevity of high-efficiency photocathodes in photoelectrochemical water-splitting devices. Their works demonstrates the potential of utilizing a hybridized, heterogeneous surface layer as a cost-effective catalytic and protective interface for solar hydrogen production.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Energy, they show that annealing a bilayer of amorphous titanium dioxide (TiOx) and molybdenum sulfide (MoSx) deposited onto GaInP2 results in a photocathode with high catalytic activity and stability for the hydrogen evolution reaction. The study showed that the annealing results in a graded MoSx/MoOx/TiO2 layer that retains much of the high catalytic activity of amorphous MoSx but with stability similar to crystalline MoS2.

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Proton OnSite to supply 13 MW-scale electrolyzers to provide hydrogen for fuel cell bus fueling in China

December 20, 2016

Proton OnSite signed a contract with Guangdong Synergy Hydrogen Power Technology Co., Ltd. to provide megawatt-scale Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) electrolyzers for the deployment of fuel cell-powered buses in the cities of Foshan and Yunfu, China.

Three of the megawatt systems will ship this summer, and an additional ten systems are planned to ship over the next 18 months, with the opportunity for significant recurring systems to follow. The agreement names Proton as the exclusive supplier of electrolyzers to Synergy and opens discussions for a joint venture to manufacture a portion of Proton’s M Series electrolyzers in Foshan exclusively for the fueling market in China.

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Researchers demonstrate new nickel selenide catalyst for more efficient water splitting

December 19, 2016

A team of researchers from Missouri University of Science and Technology and National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece have developed a highly efficient transition metal selenide-based coordination complex, [Ni{(SePiPr2)2N}2] for oxygen evolution and hydrogen evolution reactions (OER and HER, respectively) in alkaline solution.

In a paper published in ChemSusChem describing their work, the researchers reported that very low overpotentials of 200 mV and 310 mV were required to achieve 10 mA cm−2 for OER and HER, respectively. The overpotential for OER is one of the lowest that has been reported up to now, making this one of the best OER electrocatalysts. In addition, this molecular complex exhibits an exceptionally high mass activity (111.02 A g−1) and a much higher turnover frequency (TOF) value (0.26 s−1) at a overpotential of 300 mV. The bifunctional electrocatalyst enables water electrolysis in alkaline solutions at a cell voltage of 1.54 V.

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ITM Power to launch 100 MW electrolyzer plant designs at Hannover Messe 2017

December 13, 2016

ITM Power will showcase a series of large scale electrolyzer configurations up to 100MW in size at Hannover Messe 2017 (24 - 28 April). This is in response to utility and oil and gas industry demand for larger scale industrial installations.

ITM Power has sold a number of MW-scale plants over the last year and is now responding to enquires for much larger plant for bus and heavy goods vehicle refueling stations in the to 10MW range and, increasingly, industrial applications ranging from power-to-gas, refineries and steel-making in the 10MW to 100MW range.

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Single Pt atom catalysts show enhanced catalytic activity for water-splitting; potential to drive down electrolysis cost

December 12, 2016

A research team from University of Western Ontario, McMaster University and Beijing Computational Science Research Center has developed an effective synthesis method to produce isolated single platinum (Pt) atoms and clusters for use as catalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) in water splitting to produce hydrogen.

In an open-access paper published in Nature Communications, the researchers reported that the single Pt atom catalysts exhibit significantly enhanced catalytic activity (up to 37 times) and high stability in comparison to the state-of-the-art commercial platinum/carbon (Pt/C) catalysts.

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Hydrogen from sunlight, but as a dark reaction; time-delayed photocatalytic H2 production

December 09, 2016

A team at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Germany, and collaborators at ETH Zurich and the University of Cambridge, have developed a system that enables time-delayed photocatalytic hydrogen generation—essentially, an artificial photosynthesis system that can operate in the dark. A paper on their work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

The system uses a carbon nitride-based material that can harvest and store sunlight as long-lived trapped electrons for redox chemistry in the dark. More specifically, the system comprises a partially anionic, cyanamide-functionalized heptazine polymer, which, in the presence of an appropriate electron donor, forms a radical species under irradiation that has a lifetime of more than 10 hours. This ultra-long-lived radical can reductively produce hydrogen in the presence of a hydrogen evolution catalyst in the dark on demand.

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JISEA: nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems can reduce GHG from industry, produce fuels and support the power system

Nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems (N-R HESs) can enable low-carbon, on-demand electricity while providing reduced-emission thermal energy for industrial processes. N-R HES systems are managed by a single entity that link a nuclear reactor that generates heat, a thermal power cycle for heat-to-electricity conversion, at least one renewable energy source, and an industrial process that uses thermal and/or electrical energy.

However, the economic feasibility of these systems may depend on future natural gas prices, electricity market structures, and clean energy incentives. A series of new reports from the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL) examines various hybrid system configurations to provide a basis to identify opportunities for clean energy use and examine the most economically viable configurations.

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Nikola Motor unveils prototype Class 8 fuel cell range-extended electric truck, plans for H2 fueling network

December 06, 2016

At an event at its Salt Lake City headquarters last week, startup Nikola Motor Company (NMC) unveiled the first public prototype of its Nikola One Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell range-extended electric truck, as well as renderings of the Nikola Two Class 8 day cab version. The company also announced its plan for a network of 364 hydrogen fueling stations across the US and Canada (Nikola is bundling fuel with the truck), and unveiled a 107 kWh battery pack for the Nikola Zero UTV along with a business plan to sell packs to OEMs.

The Nikola One utilizes a fully electric drivetrain featuring a 320 kWh Li-ion battery pack (32,000 cells) and a nearly 300 kW fuel cell stack powering a 6x4 four-wheel electric drive (four 800V AC motors) with torque vectoring. Delivering more than 1,000 hp (746 kW) and 2,000 lb-ft of torque, the Nikola One will have an expected range of 800-1,200 miles, the company said.

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Detailed snapshots of photosynthesis at room temperature using SLAC’s X-ray laser show water-splitting reaction

November 21, 2016

One of its molecular mysteries of photosynthesis involves how the photosystem II protein complex harvests energy from sunlight and uses it to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Now, an international team of researchers has used femtosecond pulses from an X-ray free electron laser (XFEL) at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to capture the highest resolution room-temperature (RT) images of this protein complex, allowing scientists to watch closely how water is split during photosynthesis at the temperature at which it occurs naturally. A paper on the work is published in the journal Nature.

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DOE announces $30M in funding for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies

November 18, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced approximately $30 million in available funding (DE-FOA-0001647), subject to appropriations, for research and development of low-cost hydrogen production, onboard hydrogen storage, and proton exchange membrane fuel cells to advance the widespread commercialization of fuel cell electric vehicles.

Selected projects will leverage national lab consortia launched under DOE’s Energy Materials Network (EMN) this past year, in support of DOE’s materials research and advanced manufacturing priorities. The EMN consortia have been established to make unique, world-class capabilities at the national laboratories more accessible to industry, facilitating collaborations that will expedite the development and manufacturing of advanced materials for commercial markets.

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Compact pilot plant for solar to liquid fuels production

November 09, 2016

Partners from Germany and Finland in the SOLETAIR project are building a compact pilot plant for the production of gasoline, diesel and kerosene from solar energy, regenerative hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The plant will be compact enough to fit into a shipping container.

The plant consists of three components. A direct air capture unit developed by the Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT) extracts carbon dioxide from air. An electrolysis unit developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) produces the required hydrogen by means of solar power. A microstructured, chemical reactor—the key component of the plant—converts the hydrogen produced from solar power together with carbon dioxide into liquid fuels. This reactor was developed by KIT. The compact plant was developed to maturity and is now being commercialized by KIT spin-off INERATEC.

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Stanford team sets record for solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of solar water splitting: >30%

November 02, 2016

Researchers at Stanford University have demonstrated solar water splitting by photovoltaic-electrolysis with a solar-to-hydrogen (STH) efficiency of more than 30%—a new record. The prior record was 24.4%. An open-access paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

The system consists of two polymer electrolyte membrane electrolyzers in series with one InGaP/GaAs/GaInNAsSb triple-junction solar cell, which produces a large-enough voltage to drive both electrolyzers with no additional energy input. The solar concentration is adjusted such that the maximum power point of the photovoltaic is well matched to the operating capacity of the electrolyzers to optimize the system efficiency. The results, the researchers said, demonstrate the potential of photovoltaic-electrolysis systems for cost-effective solar energy storage.

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DOE’s $10M Advanced Water Splitting Materials Consortium accelerating development of green hydrogen production

October 24, 2016

The Energy Department (DOE) recently announced $10 million, subject to appropriations, to support the launch of the HydroGEN Advanced Water Splitting Materials Consortium (HydroGEN). (Earlier post.) This consortium will utilize the expertise and capabilities of the national laboratories to accelerate the development of commercially viable pathways for hydrogen production from renewable energy sources.

HydroGEN is being launched as part of the Energy Materials Network (EMN) that began in February of this year, crafted to give American entrepreneurs and manufacturers a competitive edge in the global development of clean energy in support of the President’s Materials Genome Initiative and advanced manufacturing priorities.

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DOE awarding $3.0M cost-share contract to FuelCell Energy for solid oxide electrolyzer; converting excess electricity to H2

October 23, 2016

FuelCell Energy, Inc. is developing a solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) system to convert excess electricity during periods of low power demand into hydrogen efficiently. The US Department of Energy (DOE) is supporting this development with a $3.0 million cost-share contract to advance SOEC system design that will be added to the Advanced Technology backlog for the fourth quarter of 2016.

The market for energy storage is significant for high efficiency and flexible long duration storage that is affordable for rate payers. The energy storage market is expanding as utilities adjust to manage increased levels of intermittent renewable power generation supplying the electric grid. Annual global energy storage deployments are projected to increase to approximately 7 to 9 gigawatts by 2020 with continued increases thereafter. The SOEC solution being supported with this DOE funding meets these needs for both utility-scale applications as well as on-site opportunities.

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UK, Saudi team shows hydrocarbon wax is a viable, safe medium for on-board hydrogen storage

October 20, 2016

Researchers at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Cardiff in the UK, and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Saudi Arabia have shown that benign, readily-available heavy alkane hydrocarbon wax is capable of rapidly releasing large amounts of hydrogen—sufficient to meet the 7 wt% target set by the US DOE—through microwave-assisted catalytic decomposition.

This discovery, reported in an open-access paper in Scientific Reports, offers a new material and system for safe and efficient hydrogen storage and could facilitate its application in a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Hydrocarbon wax is the major product of the low temperature Fischer-Tropsch synthesis process from syngas and is currently thermally “cracked” to produce various fuels.

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