[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.]
DOE to issue funding opportunity for hydrogen and fuel cell Incubator projects
March 07, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of its Fuel Cell Technologies Office, a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) entitled “Innovations in Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Fuels Technologies” (DE-FOA-0001094) for the FCTO Incubator program.
EERE has established multi‐year plans and roadmaps, with a concomitant focus of the majority of its resources on a limited number of “highest probability of success” pathways/approaches to ensure that the program initiatives are supported at a critical mass (both in terms of dollars and time) for maximum impact. While this roadmap‐based approach can be a strength, it can also create challenges in recognizing and exploring unanticipated, game changing pathways/approaches which may ultimately be superior to the pathways/approaches on the existing roadmaps.
Iogen proposes new method to increase renewable content of transportation fuels; renewable hydrogen from biogas for refinery hydrogenation units
January 23, 2014
Cellulosic biofuel and biochemical company Iogen Corporation has developed and filed for patents on a new method to increase the renewable energy content of liquid transportation fuels. The production method involves processing biogas to deliver renewable hydrogen and then incorporating the renewable hydrogen into conventional liquid fuels via selected refinery hydrogenation units.
The company estimates there is refining capacity in place to incorporate 5-6 billion gallons per year of renewable hydrogen content into gasoline and diesel fuel. Iogen says it will initially commercialize the approach using landfill biogas, and then expand production using biogas made in the cellulosic ethanol facilities it is currently developing.
University of Houston team demonstrates new efficient solar water-splitting catalyst for hydrogen production
December 16, 2013
Researchers from the University of Houston (UH) have developed a cobalt(II) oxide (CoO) nanocrystalline catalyst that can carry out overall water splitting with a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of around 5%. They report on their work in a paper in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Corresponding author Jiming Bao, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UH, said photocatalytic water-splitting experiments have been tried since the 1970s, but this was the first to use cobalt oxide and the first to use neutral water under visible light at a high energy conversion efficiency without co-catalysts or sacrificial chemicals.
DOE issues Request for Information on financing strategies for light-duty H2 fueling infrastructure
December 13, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0001055) for light-duty fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) fueling infrastructure financing strategies within the context of an early market introduction.
The purpose of this RFI is to solicit feedback from the financial/investment/business community and light-duty vehicle (LDV) hydrogen transportation stakeholders. This input will augment financing strategies that DOE analyzes for public deployment of infrastructure for supporting FCEV introduction in US markets. Such financing strategies should maximize financing, for example, with debt and equity, while minimizing public incentives.
California Energy Commission to award up to $29.9M to hydrogen refueling infrastructure projects
November 24, 2013
The California Energy Commission (CEC) will award up to $29.9 million to projects to develop hydrogen refueling infrastructure in California (PON-13-607).
The solicitation has two goals: 1) to develop infrastructure necessary to dispense hydrogen transportation fuel; and 2) to provide needed Operation and Maintenance (O&M) funding to support hydrogen refueling operations prior to the large—scale roll—out of Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs). CEC will provide funding to construct, to upgrade, or to support hydrogen refueling stations that expand the network of publicly accessible hydrogen refueling stations to serve the current population of FCVs and accommodate the planned large—scale roll—out of FCVs beginning in 2015.
NSF/DOE partnership to award up to $18M for H2 production via advanced solar water-splitting technologies; separate DOE solicitation
November 14, 2013
A National Science Foundation and US Department of Energy (DOE) partnership on hydrogen production via solar water-splitting will award (NSF 14-511) up to $18 million to support the discovery and development of advanced materials systems and chemical processes for direct photochemical and/or thermochemical water splitting for application in the solar production of hydrogen fuel.
NSF and DOE are jointly funding this program solicitation issued by the NSF Chemical, Bioengineeering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET) Division; NSF expects to make 3 to 5 awards, each of up to 3-years duration. The DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Office also issued a separate solicitation for work a broader range of hydrogen production technologies. (DE-FOA-0000826)
JCAP researchers propose protocol for standardized evaluation of OER catalysts for solar-fuel systems
November 03, 2013
|Protocol for measuring the electrochemically active surface area, catalytic activity, stability, and Faradaic efficiency of heterogeneous electrocatalysts for OER. Credit: ACS, McCrory et al. Click to enlarge.|
Electro-catalytic water splitting to produce hydrogen and oxygen is a key element of solar-fuels devices; identifying efficient catalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) is critical to their realization. (The OER is efficiency-limiting for direct solar and electrolytic water splitting, rechargeable metal-air batteries, and regenerative fuel cells. Earlier post.) However, notes a team of researchers from the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis at Caltech, current methods employed to evaluate oxygen-evolving catalysts are not standardized, making it difficult to compare the activity and stability of these materials.
To address this issue, the researchers are proposing a protocol to evaluate the activity, stability, and Faradaic efficiency of electro-deposited oxygen-evolving electrocatalysts. In particular, they focus on methods for determining electrochemically active surface area and measuring electrocatalytic activity and stability under conditions relevant to an integrated solar water-splitting device. A paper on their work is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Duke team develops new core-shell copper nanowire catalyst for efficient water oxidation for solar fuels
October 25, 2013
|A transparent film of copper nanowires was transformed into an electrocatalyst for water oxidation by electrodeposition of Ni or Co onto the surface of the nanowires. Chen et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team led by Benjamin J. Wiley at Duke University has introduced a new electrocatalyst for water oxidation consisting of a conductive network of core-shell nanowires that is just as efficient as conventional metal oxide films on indium tin oxide (ITO) and a great deal more transparent and robust. A paper on their work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
Water oxidation (2H2O → O2 + 4e- + 4H+) is a key step for converting solar energy into chemical fuels. Nickel and cobalt oxides are attractive anode materials for the oxidation of water because they are readily available and demonstrate high catalytic activity. For use in photoelectric synthesis cells, in which chemical conversions are driven by light, the oxides are typically electrodeposited onto ITO substrates. ITO is used because of its high transmittance and low sheet resistance.
Researchers develop viable catalysts for reforming of heavy gas oil to hydrogen
October 14, 2013
One approach to delivering hydrogen for the stacks in fuel cell vehicles is via the on-board reforming of hydrocarbon fuels; such an approach obviates the need for on-board hydrogen gas storage technology and leverages the existing liquid fuels infrastructure. However, using more refined low-sulfur hydrocarbon fuels can add to the overall cost of the system. Less refined fuels—such as heavy gas oil—would be less expensive; however, the higher levels of sulfur in the fuels could prove problematic for catalysts.
Now, researchers in S. Korean and Japan have synthesized hollow fiber catalysts networked with perovskite nanoparticles for the production of hydrogen from heavy gas oil reforming, some of which showed high efficiency for H2 production with substantial durability under high concentrations of S, N, and aromatic compounds. Their findings are reported in an open access paper in the journal Scientific Reports.
Western Hydrogen produces first hydrogen from Molten Salt Gasification pilot plant
September 29, 2013
|Molten Salt Gasification Process. Click to enlarge.|
Western Hydrogen Limited reported first production of hydrogen from its Molten Salt Gasification (MSG) pilot plant in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. The MSG process, under license from Idaho National Laboratory, uses a combination of molten sodium salts (sodium carbonate and sodium hydroxide) to convert a carbon feedstock and water into hydrogen. The technology allows the production of high-pressure hydrogen without the need for compression and can use a variety of feedstocks, including renewables.
Following six years of testing at the Idaho National Laboratory, the pilot plant was constructed to demonstrate the technology’s reliability in a large-scale production facility.
Kawasaki Heavy to build first ocean-going liquid hydrogen tanker with demo in 2017; H2 for transport, industry, power in Japan
September 28, 2013
|KHI’s view of a “CO2-free hydrogen chain”. Source: KHI. Click to enlarge.|
The Nikkei reports that Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. (KHI) will build the first ocean-going ships to carry liquefied hydrogen (LH2), with plans for a demonstration test by 2017 in which liquefied hydrogen will be shipped from the state of Victoria in Australia to Japan. The project will cost ¥60 billion (US$610 million), according to the report.
As part of Japan’s WE-NET (World Energy Network) research program of the New Sunshine Project begun in 1993, Kawasaki and its other industrial colleagues in Japan have been considering the large-scale marine transportation of liquid hydrogen for some time (e.g., Abe et al., 1998). KHI has previously discussed the concept of such a hydrogen-carrying vessel as part of its Business Vision 2020.
Berkeley Lab researchers at JCAP develop unique semiconductor/catalyst construct for production of H2 from sunlight
August 30, 2013
Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) working at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) have developed a method by which molecular cobalt-containing hydrogen production catalysts can be interfaced with a semiconductor that absorbs visible light.
Coupling the absorption of visible light with the production of hydrogen in one material enables the generation of a fuel simply by illuminating the photocathode, says Gary Moore, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and principal investigator for JCAP. “No external electrochemical forward biasing is required.” Moore is the corresponding author of a paper describing this research in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).
New materials for bio-based hydrogen synthesis; synthetic biology enables spontaneous protein activation
August 13, 2013
Researchers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) (Germany), with colleagues from the MPI (Max Planck Institute) Mülheim and Université Grenoble, have discovered an efficient process for hydrogen biocatalysis. They developed semi-synthetic hydrogenases—hydrogen-generating enzymes—by adding the protein’s biological precursor to a chemically synthesized inactive iron complex.
From these two components, the biological catalyst formed spontaneously in a test tube, thus greatly simplifying the design and production of hydrogenases. The team reports on their work in a paper in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
CU-Boulder team develops more efficient isothermal solar-thermal water splitting technique for H2 production
August 02, 2013
A University of Colorado Boulder team has developed a new solar-thermal water-splitting (STWS) system for the efficient production of hydrogen. A paper on their work is published in the journal Science.
STWS cycles have long been recognized as a desirable means of generating hydrogen gas (H2) from water and sunlight, the team notes. Two-step, metal oxide–based STWS cycles generate H2 by sequential high-temperature reduction of a metal oxide catalyst (releasing oxygen atoms) and cooler conditions in which the catalyst is reoxidized by oxygen from water (freeing up hydrogen molecules for collection as hydrogen gas). The temperature swings between reduction and oxidation steps have hobbled STWS’ overall efficiency, however, because of thermal and time losses that occur during the frequent heating and cooling of the metal oxide. The cycling can also limit catalyst lifetime.
ITM Power reports its estimated cost of producing hydrogen via electrolysis down significantly from last year
July 22, 2013
ITM Power has provided an update on the cost structure of hydrogen generated by its HFuel electrolysis platform. The new estimated cost —US$4.13/kg after capital amortization—incorporates efficiency improvements, cost reduction of its HGas platform and data provided by Hyundai for the ix35 fuel cell electric vehicle (earlier post).
ITM Power projects hydrogen cost at £4.19/kg (US$6.44/kg), a 32.7% reduction from last year’s £6.23/kg (US$9.57/kg), within a 10-year capital amortization period and £2.69/kg (US$4.13/kg), a 22.9% reduction from last year’s £3.49/kg (US$5.36/kg), after capital amortization.
EPFL/Technion team develops “champion” nanostructures for efficient solar water-splitting to produce hydrogen
July 15, 2013
|Hydrogen bubbles as they appear in a photoelectrochemical cell. © LPI / EPFL. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers from EPFL in Switzerland and Technion-Israel Institue of Technology have developed nanoparticle-based α-Fe2O3 (hematite) electrodes that achieve the highest photocurrent of any metal oxide photoanode for photoelectrochemical water-splitting under 100 mW cm−2 air mass, 1.5 global sunlight. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Materials.
With current methods, in which a conventional photovoltaic cell is coupled to an electrolyzer to produce hydrogen, the cost to produce hydrogen from water using the sun is around €15 per kilo at its cheapest, said research leader Dr. Michael Grätzel, Director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces (LPI) at EPFL and inventor of dye-sensitized photoelectrochemical cells. “We’re aiming at a €5 charge per kilo,” he said.
European Commission launches new $1.8-billion fuel cell and hydrogen research initiative
July 10, 2013
The European Commission is launching a second phase of the first Fuel Cells and Hydrogen (FCH) Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) set up in 2008. The new Fuel Cells & Hydrogen 2 Initiative—with a proposed combined 50:50 EU-industry budget of €1.4 billion (US$1.8 billion)—will continue to develop a portfolio of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies to the point of market introduction. The new FCH 2 JTI is expected to start in 2014 and will end in 2024.
The JTI is one of five announced as part of a new EU-industry investment of €22 billion (US$28 billion) in research and innovation. The other JTIs address innovative medicines; aeronautics; bio-based industries; and electronics.
International consortium launches government-supported study on hydrogen vehicle refueling infrastructure in France
July 06, 2013
Twenty founding partner members of the “Mobility Hydrogen France” (Mobilité Hydrogène France, MHF) consortium are combining their forces and expertise to produce an economically competitive and supported deployment plan for a private and public hydrogen refueling infrastructure in France between 2015 and 2030, including an analysis of cost-effectiveness.
Regional, national and international, private and public stakeholders were brought together by the French Association for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells (L’Association Française pour l’Hydrogène et les Piles à Combustible, AFHyPaC) and supported by the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy (Ministère de l’Ecologie, du Développement Durable et de l’Energie), to share their knowledge and expertise in order to develop coordinated deployment scenarios for vehicles and hydrogen stations, and to emphasize the clear benefits and costs of this transition. The results will be published in late 2013.
New molybdenum disulfide catalyst shows promise for lower cost hydrogen production
July 03, 2013
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin - Madison have developed MoS2 (molybdenum disulfide) nanosheet catalysts that deliver “dramatically” enhanced hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) catalysis for the production of hydrogen gas from water—albeit still lower than platinum. However the eventual ability to use such an inexpensive, abundant alternative instead of platinum for a catalyst material would reduce the cost of hydrogen production. Their results are published as a “Just Accepted” paper online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Although traditionally used as a hydrodesulfurization catalyst, molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) is also of interest as an HER catalyst that exhibits promising hydrogen evolution activity in crystalline or amorphous materials, and molecular mimics. (Earlier post.) However, the catalytic HER performance of MoS2 is currently limited by the density and reactivity of active sites, poor electrical transport, and inefficient electrical contact to the catalyst, the authors noted.
New catalysts enable photocatalytic version of water gas shift reaction for H2 production
June 18, 2013
Researchers at the Univ. Politécnica de Valencia (Spain) have found that noble metal nanoparticles supported on titanium dioxide or cerium dioxide can catalyze the industrially important water gas shift (WGS) reaction for hydrogen production at ambient temperatures using visible light irradiation. An open access paper on their discovery is published in the RSC journal Energy and Environmental Science.
Currently, most hydrogen is produced via the steam reforming of natural gas, hydrocarbons and coal. Additional amounts of hydrogen are generated by the reaction of CO with water (the water gas shift reaction)—which also leads to the formation of CO2. WGS is an endothermic process typically carried out in industry at high temperatures (about 350 °C) with either an iron oxide- or copper-based catalyst to achieve almost complete CO conversion.
Nickel phosphide nanoparticle shown to be efficient non-noble metal electrocatalyst for hydrogen production
June 17, 2013
In the electrochemical reduction of water to molecular hydrogen, the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) is facilitated by noble metal catalysts such as platinum (Pt), which generate large cathodic current densities for this reaction at low overpotentials.
A research team led by Raymond Schaak, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, now reports that nanoparticles of nickel phosphide (Ni2P)—the two component elements of which are inexpensive and earth-abundant—have demonstrated among the highest HER activity of any non-noble metal electrocatalyst reported to date. A paper on the work is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
“Project Volt Gas Volt” proposes long-term financing plan to support widespread implementation of power-to-gas systems
June 02, 2013
|Project Volt Gas Volt is based on a long-term financing plan and the use of existing technologies for the large-scale conversion of surplus renewable electricity to methane, with subsequent reuse. Diagram: Isabelle Plat. Click to enlarge.|
Corinne Lepage, Member of the European Parliament (and former French Minister of the Environment) and Professor Robert Bell, Brooklyn University, City University of New York, are proposing Project Volt Gas Volt (VGV) as a technology pathway for using renewable energy to “keep the lights on” on the broadest scale without disruption, together with a long-term financing proposal for the project. Although they are targeting an initial implementation France, they see it as broadly applicable.
Project VGV uses surplus electricity generated by renewable and nuclear sources to produce hydrogen via electrolysis. The hydrogen is combined with CO2 to produce methane, which is pumped into and stored in the existing natural gas grid and used like natural gas for use in power generation, transportation, or other thermal and industrial uses. The concept is the same embodied in Audi’s e-gas project (earlier post), to which the VGV proposal makes continued reference.
New LLNL technique for CO2 capture also produces green hydrogen and alkalinity to offset ocean acidification
May 28, 2013
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have discovered and demonstrated a new technique to remove and store atmospheric carbon dioxide while generating carbon-negative hydrogen and producing alkalinity, which can be used to offset ocean acidification. A paper on their work appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The team demonstrated, at a laboratory scale, a system that uses the acidity normally produced in saline water electrolysis to accelerate silicate mineral dissolution while producing hydrogen fuel and other gases. The resulting electrolyte solution was shown to be significantly elevated in hydroxide concentration that in turn proved strongly absorptive and retentive of atmospheric CO2.
PowerCell unveils 3kW PowerPac fuel cell APU that converts diesel into electricity
May 21, 2013
PowerCell, a Swedish energy technology company with roots in the Volvo Group, unveiled a functioning full-scale prototype of its PowerPac fuel cell system, which combines an autothermal reformer and a PEM fuel cell stack to convert diesel fuel into electricity. (Earlier post.) The main target groups for PowerPac are truck manufacturers; truck owners; mobile operators; owners of base stations and other telecom infrastructure; and the military.
The PowerPac system is based on proprietary, patented technology. The unit is more efficient than a small ICE (internal combustion engine) generator in combination with an environmental friendly exhaust. The unit produces about 3kW of electric energy.
Converting wastepaper to biocrude and hydrogen
May 12, 2013
|Biocrude compounds, product gas and reaction pathways from APR of wastepaper at 250 °C in presence of 5 wt % Ni(NO3)2 catalyst. Credit: ACS, Tungal and Shende. Click to enlarge.|
A pair of researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have demonstrated homogeneously catalyzed subcritical aqueous phase reforming (APR) of wastepaper to produce biocrude and hydrogen. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Wastepaper can be a combination of newspaper—a lignocellulosic biomass containing cellulose (62%), hemicellulose (16%), and lignin (16%)—and used office printing papers which consist of mainly cellulose (85−99%) and negligible (0.4%) lignin. Using a homogeneous Ni(NO3)2 catalyst, they produced about 44 wt % biocrude from wastepaper slurry at 250 °C after 120 minutes of reaction time. The biocrude contained ∼1 wt % HMF/furfural, 7.5 wt % sugars, 49.1 wt % acids, and 42.4 wt % oxygenated hydrocarbons.
Brookhaven team develops molybdenum-soy catalyst that rivals performance of noble metals for hydrogen production
April 24, 2013
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) have developed a low-cost, stable, effective catalyst made from earth-abundant molybdenum and common soybeans (MoSoy).
In a paper published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the team reports that the catalyst—composed of a catalytic β-Mo2C phase and an acid-proof γ-Mo2N phase, drives the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) with low overpotentials, and is highly durable in a corrosive acidic solution over a period exceeding 500 hours. When supported on graphene sheets, the MoSoy catalyst exhibits very fast charge transfer kinetics, and its performance rivals that of noble-metal catalysts such as platinum (Pt) for hydrogen production.
German researchers improve catalyst for steam reforming of methanol with salt coating; enabler for renewable energy storage systems
April 19, 2013
Researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany) report in the journal Angewandte Chemie their development of an enhanced platinum catalyst for the steam reforming of methanol to release hydrogen.
A central problem of renewable energy technology lies in the great variation of energy generated (i.e., intermittency). One proposed solution is methanol-based hydrogen storage. In this scenario, excess renewable electricity can be used to electrolyze water to produce hydrogen. The hydrogen, in turn, is then reacted with carbon dioxide to make methanol and water, thus allowing it to be stored as a liquid. The hydrogen can be released from the methanol at a later time to power a fuel cell.
France’s IFPEN studying industrial potential of onshore sources of natural hydrogen
April 18, 2013
IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN) has become one of the first global research centers actively to investigate onshore natural hydrogen emissions after the discovery of offshore sources of the gas in the 1970s.
Initial exploratory work has already shown that continuous onshore natural H2 emissions occur frequently. IFPEN now is launching a new research project investigating the viability of industrial exploitation. IFPEN is a French public-sector research, innovation and training center active in the fields of energy, transport and the environment.
Virginia Tech team develops process for high-yield production of hydrogen from xylose under mild conditions
April 03, 2013
|Flow of the new process; enzymes are in red. Credit: Martín del Campo et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team of Virginia Tech researchers, led by Dr. Y.H. Percival Zhang, has developed a process to convert xylose—the second-most abundant sugar in plants—into hydrogen with approaching 100% of the theoretical yield. The findings of their study, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, International Edition, suggest that cell-free biosystems could produce hydrogen from biomass xylose at low cost.
In the process, hydrogen is produced from xylose and water in one reactor containing 13 enzymes, including a novel polyphosphate xylulokinase (XK). The method can be performed using any source of biomass.
Stanford GCEP awards $6.6M to 7 projects; focus on combining energy conversion with carbon-neutral fuel production
March 13, 2013
Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) is awarding $6.6 million to seven research teams—six from Stanford and one from Carnegie Mellon University—to advance research on technologies for renewable energy conversion to electricity or fuels and for capturing CO2 emissions and converting CO2 to fuels.
The 7 awards bring the total number of GCEP-supported research programs to 104, with total funding of approximately $125 million since the project’s launch in 2002.
IACS team develops high-performing bio-inspired electrocatalyst for hydrogen generation in an aqueous medium
March 11, 2013
Researchers from the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS), an autonomous—and the oldest—research institute in India, have developed a high-performing bio-inspired catalyst (an Fe−Fe hydrogenase mimic immobilized on graphite surfaces) for electrocatalytic hydrogen generation in an aqueous medium.
In a paper published in the journal ACS Catalysis, they report that the catalyst shows a turnover frequency of 6,400 s−1 at −0.5 V and an onset potential of −0.36 V vs NHE (normal hydrogen electrode, an early standard for zero potential). Prolonged electrolysis shows that the catalyst has a turnover number ≫108 and a Faradaic efficiency > 95%. Even at pH 2, more than 400 s−1 is obtained. The catalyst can be immobilized on inexpensive carbon electrodes, such as those used in domestic Zn-carbon dry batteries, to generate H2 from acid aqueous solutions.