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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.]

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

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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

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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

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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”

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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

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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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Toshiba to partner with Kawasaki City on 5-year demo of independent energy supply system utilizing solar power and hydrogen

November 14, 2014

Toshiba Corporation and Kawasaki City will conduct a cooperative demonstration experiment of an independent energy supply system utilizing solar power and hydrogen. This system will be set up in the Kawasaki Marien public facility and Higashi-Ogishima-Naka Park in the Kawasaki Port area. The demonstration will run from April 2015 (the beginning of fiscal 2015) until the end of fiscal 2020 (March 2021).

The independent energy supply system combines a 25 kW photovoltaic facility; a storage battery; hydrogen-producing water electrolysis equipment; hydrogen (275 Nm3) and water tanks; and fuel cells. Electricity generated from the photovoltaic installations will be used to electrolyze water and produce hydrogen, which will then be stored in hydrogen tank and used in the fuel cells to provide electricity and hot water (60ℓ/h). Hydrogen electrical power storage capacity is 350 kWh. (Hydrogen storage capacity increases by about a maximum of 20%, depending on the weather.)

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Opinion: Debunking the myths—Why fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are viable for the mass market

November 07, 2014

by Dr. Henri Winand, CEO of Intelligent Energy

2014 has been a year of rapid growth for the fuel cell market with positive progress being made globally, especially in markets such as US, UK, Germany, France and Japan. Public-private investment initiatives, government funding for infrastructure and consumer subsidies, falling production costs and notably, the commitment to future OEM launches of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs)—all indicate a clear road to adoption. The findings from last year’s UK H2 Mobility report support this conclusion, outlining that FCEVs represent an attractive and sustainable long-term business proposition and that they can deliver important environmental and economic benefits to the UK.

Despite the recent progress, a number of myths around the use, power efficiency and cost of fuel cells still exist.

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Rice University researchers create dual-purpose edge-oriented MoS2 film for energy storage, hydrogen catalysis

November 03, 2014

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A new material developed at Rice University based on molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) exposes as much of the edge as possible, making it efficient as both a catalyst for hydrogen production and for energy storage. Courtesy of the Tour Group. Click to enlarge.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour has turned molybdenum disulfide’s two-dimensional form into a edge-oriented nanoporous film that can catalyze the production of hydrogen or be used for energy storage as part of a supercapacitor device.

The versatile chemical compound, classified as a dichalcogenide, is inert along its flat sides; however, previous studies determined the material’s edges are highly efficient catalysts for hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), a process used in fuel cells to pull hydrogen from water. Tour and his colleagues found a cost-effective way to create flexible films of the material that maximize the amount of exposed edge and have potential for a variety of energy-oriented applications. A paper on the research appears in the journal Advanced Materials.

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DOE seeking feedback on findings of hydrogen production and delivery workshops

October 29, 2014

The US Department of Energy's Fuel Cell Technologies Office has issued two requests for information (RFIs) seeking feedback from the research community and relevant stakeholders about electrolytic hydrogen production (DE-FOA-0001188) and hydrogen delivery research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) activities (DE-FOA-0001187) aimed at developing technologies that can ultimately produce and deliver low-cost hydrogen.

The purpose of these RFIs is to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to electrolytic hydrogen production pathways and hydrogen transmission and distribution, specifically with respect to reports developed at workshops on the topics convened by the DOE in February.

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Swedish Energy Agency grants PowerCell $1.4M loan for the development of next-generation fuel cell APU system

October 06, 2014

The Swedish Energy Agency has granted fuel cell technology company PowerCell, a spinout from the Volvo Group (earlier post), a loan of SEK 10 million (US$1.385 million) for the development of the next generation PowerPac APU (auxiliary power unit) system, which converts diesel fuel into electricity via a system comprising a catalytic reformer and fuel cells. The next-generation unit covers a larger power range up to 25 kW and maintains the same tolerance towards CO and reformate gas as the present platform.

The PowerCell system comprises three modules: the fuel reformer; the fuel cell stack; and the power electronics. PowerCell selected an Auto Thermal Reactor (ATR) technology to evaporate (not combust) the diesel and extract hydrogen-rich gas with gas purity well within the limits of what a low temperature PEM fuel cell can support in terms of CO.

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EPFL team develops low-cost water splitting cell with solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of 12.3%

September 26, 2014

A team led by Dr. Michael Grätzel at EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in Switzerland has developed a highly efficient and low-cost water-splitting cell combining an advanced perovskite tandem solar cell and a bi-functional Earth-abundant catalyst.

The combination of the two delivers a water-splitting photocurrent density of around 10 milliamperes per square centimeter, corresponding to a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of 12.3%. (Currently, perovskite instability limits the cell lifetime.) Their paper is published in the journal Science. In a companion Perspective in the journal, Dr. Thomas Hamann of Michigan State University, who was not involved with the study, called Grätzel’s team’s work “an important step towards achieving [the] goal” of quickly developing alternative sources of energy that can replace fossil fuels.

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German researchers boost algal hydrogen production five-fold using metabolic engineering approach

September 25, 2014

Scientists from the Max Planck Institutes for Chemical Energy Conversion and Coal Research and from the research group Photobiotechnology at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have discovered a way of increasing the efficiency of hydrogen production in microalgae by a factor of five by using a combined metabolic engineering approach. An open access paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.

The genetic modifications resulting in the enhanced light-driven hydrogen production opens new avenues for the design of H2-producing organisms, which might lead to the design of an economically competitive hydrogen producing organism, the researchers suggest.

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U Glasgow chemists develop new electrolyzer architecture for H2 production 30X faster than current electrolyzers at equivalent platinum loading

September 15, 2014

Chemists from the University of Glasgow (Scotland) have developed a new method for hydrogen production that is 30 times faster than current state-of-the-art proton exchange membrane electrolyzers at equivalent platinum loading. The process also solves common problems associated with generating electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind or wave energy. A paper on their method is published in the journal Science.

The method uses a recyclable redox mediator (silicotungstic acid) that enables the coupling of low-pressure production of oxygen via water oxidation to a separate, catalytic hydrogen production step outside an electrolyzer that requires no post-electrolysis energy input. This approach sidesteps the production of high-pressure gases inside the electrolytic cell (a major cause of membrane degradation) and essentially eliminates the hazardous issue of product gas crossover at the low current densities that characterize renewables-driven water-splitting devices.

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Stanford team reports new low-cost, non-precious metal catalyst for water splitting with performance close to platinum

August 22, 2014

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Structure of the NiO/Ni-CNT hybrid. Blue = nickel, green = nickel oxide. Credit: Gong et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Stanford University, with colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other institutions, have developed a nickel-based electrocatalyst for low-cost water-splitting for hydrogen production with performance close to that of much more expensive commercial platinum electrocatalysts.

As described in their paper in Nature Communications, the catalyst comprises nanoscale ​nickel oxide/nickel heterostructures formed on carbon nanotube sidewalls (NiO/Ni-CNT nano-hybrids). The researchers were able to make the electrocatalysts active enough to split water at room temperature with a single 1.5-volt battery, said Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. This marked the first time anyone has used non-precious metal catalysts to split water at a voltage that low, he added.

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Molecular shuttle speeds up hydrogen production by the photocatalytic splitting of water

August 15, 2014

In their latest experiments with semiconductor nanocrystals as light absorbers, physicists led by Professor Jochen Feldmann (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, LMU Munich), in collaboration with a team of chemists under the direction of Professor Andrey Rogach (City University of Hong Kong), have succeeded in significantly increasing the yield of hydrogen produced by the photocatalytic splitting of water.

The crucial innovation, reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature Materials, is the use of a so-called molecular shuttle to markedly improve the mobility of charge carriers in their reaction system.

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RIKEN researchers develop bio-inspired catalyst that splits water at neutral pH

August 09, 2014

Plants use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars and oxygen. The process starts in a cluster of manganese, calcium and oxygen atoms at the heart of a protein complex called photosystem II, which splits water to form oxygen gas, protons and electrons.

Numerous researchers have attempted to develop synthetic catalysts that mimic this cluster, using light or electricity to convert water into fuels such as hydrogen gas. Unlike plants, however, these artificial catalysts can only split alkaline water, which makes the process less sustainable. Now, researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan have developed a manganese oxide-based catalyst system that can split water efficiently at neutral pH. They report on their work in an open access paper in the journal Nature Communications.

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Researchers demonstrate use of 3D printing to produce and operate light-weight, low-cost electrolyzers

July 05, 2014

A team at the University of Glasgow has demonstrated the production and operation of a PEM electrolyzer constructed from silver-coated 3D-printed components fabricated from polypropylene. The use of 3D printing allows construction of light-weight, low-cost electrolyzers and the rapid prototyping of flow field design.

In a paper accepted by the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the researchers report data showing that performance is excellent for a first-generation device in terms of overall efficiency, internal resistances and current-voltage response. This development opens the door to the fabrication of light-weight and inexpensive electrolyzers as well as related electrochemical devices such as flow batteries and fuel cells, they suggested.

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USC team finds Li-Al nanoparticles produce hydrogen from water with high rate and yield; potential for industrial scaling

June 27, 2014

Aluminum and water react exothermically to form aluminum hydroxide and hydrogen; this basic property has lured numerous researchers interested in generating hydrogen from the aluminum-water reaction for modern transportation systems for at least 35 years. (Earlier post.) However, among the barriers to the practical application of this reaction are the low reaction rate and poor yield.

Now, results of large quantum molecular dynamics (QMD) simulations by a team at the University of Southern California suggest that alloying aluminum particles with lithium to produce hydrogen from water can produce orders-of-magnitude faster reactions with higher yields. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

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DOE awards $20M to 10 hydrogen production and delivery technologies projects

June 17, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award $20 million to ten new research and development projects that will advance hydrogen production and delivery technologies: six on hydrogen production and four on hydrogen delivery.

The six hydrogen production R&D projects selected aim to produce, deliver, and dispense hydrogen at less than $4 per gallon gasoline equivalent:

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DOE to award up to $4.6M for innovations in fuel cell and hydrogen fuel technologies

June 06, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) issued a funding opportunity announcement for up to $4.6 million for 12–24 month projects with industry and academia (DE-FOA-0000966) in support of innovations in fuel cell and hydrogen fuel technologies. (Earlier post.)

The FCTO Incubator Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is intended to identify potentially impactful technologies that are not already addressed in FCTO’s strategic plan or project portfolio. The FOA is open to any and all impactful ideas which will significantly advance the mission of the FCTO and that are relevant to its Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP); however, specific areas of interest include:

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New mesoporous crystalline Si exhibits increased rate of H2 production; potential use in Li-ion batteries also

April 11, 2014

Scheme of Mesoporous Silicon
Schematic of mesoporous silicon Image: Donghai Wang/Penn State. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Penn State have devised a new process for the bottom-up synthesis of mesoporous crystalline silicon materials with high surface area and tunable primary particle/pore size via a self-templating pore formation process.

The nanosized crystalline primary particles and high surface areas enable an increased rate of photocatalytic hydrogen production from water and extended working life. These advantages also make the mesoporous silicon a potential candidate for other applications, such as optoelectronics, drug delivery systems and even lithium-ion batteries. A paper on their work is published in Nature Communications.

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US Navy demos recovery of CO2 and production of H2 from seawater, with conversion to liquid fuel; “Fuel from Seawater”

April 08, 2014

Researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Materials Science and Technology Division have demonstrated novel NRL technologies developed for the recovery of CO2 and hydrogen from seawater and their subsequent conversion to liquid fuels. Flying a radio-controlled replica of the historic WWII P-51 Mustang red-tail aircraft (of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen), NRL researchers Dr. Jeffrey Baldwin, Dr. Dennis Hardy, Dr. Heather Willauer, and Dr. David Drab used a novel liquid hydrocarbon fuel to power the aircraft’s unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine.

The test provides a proof-of-concept for an NRL-developed process to extract CO2 and produce hydrogen gas from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. The potential longer term payoff for the Navy is the ability to produce fuel at or near the point of use when it is needed, thereby reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery, enhancing combat capabilities, and providing greater energy security by fixing fuel cost and its availability.

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