Westport & Gazprom sign agreement targeting NGV system & component manufacturing in Russia
Opinon: Lithium Market Set To Explode; All Eyes Are On Nevada

Sandia, Berkeley and Los Alamos labs in $9M effort for automotive onboard solid-state hydrogen storage; HyMARC

Sandia National Laboratories will lead a new tri-lab consortium to address unsolved scientific challenges in the development of viable solid-state materials for storage of hydrogen onboard vehicles. Better onboard hydrogen storage could lead to more reliable and economic hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Called the Hydrogen Materials—Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC), the program is funded by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at $3 million per year for three years ($9 million total), with the possibility of renewal. In addition to Sandia, the core team includes Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories.

HyMarc is one of three multi-lab consortia being put forward by the DOE in the hydrogen arena; the other two are FC-PAD (Fuel Cell Performance and Durability) and H2RENEW (Hydrogen Production from Renewables).

The HyMarc consortium will address the gaps in solid-state hydrogen storage by leveraging recent advances in predictive multiscale modeling, high-resolution in situ characterization and material synthesis. Past efforts, which synthesized and characterized hundreds of materials for solid-state hydrogen storage, laid a solid foundation for current work including the understanding of the kinetics and thermodynamics governing the physical properties of these types of storage methods.

By focusing on the underlying properties and phenomena that limit the performance of storage materials, we will generate much-needed understanding that will accelerate the development of all types of advanced storage materials, including sorbents, metal hydrides and liquid carriers.

—Brandon Wood, leader of the Lawrence Livermore team

Sandia is an international leader in hydrogen materials science, exemplified by its role as the lead lab in DOE’s Metal Hydride Center of Excellence, which ran from 2005-2010. The consortium will leverage the core capabilities of the three partners, primarily synthetic chemistry at Sandia; theory and modeling at Lawrence Livermore, with additional contributions from the Lab’s synthetic and characterization expertise; and characterization at Berkeley Lab.

The FC-PAD consortium seeks to enhance the performance and durability of polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells, while simultaneously reducing their cost.
Consortium members in this effort are Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory with Adam Weber serving as the consortium’s deputy director, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The consortium will coordinate national laboratory activities related to fuel cell performance and durability, provide technical expertise, and integrate activities with industrial developers. Dimitrios Papageorgopoulos, Los Alamos Fuels Cells program manager, will lead the consortium.
In addition to leading the overall project, Los Alamos will coordinate the evaluation of membrane electrode assembly’s performance and durability using the Laboratory’s wealth of fuel cell expertise and materials characterization tools, with Los Alamos scientist Rangachary Mukundan as thrust coordinator.

The world-class supercomputing facilities at Lawrence Livermore and Sandia are key elements of the team’s strategy to develop the enabling science for hydrogen solid storage technologies, along with advanced experimental tools available at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source and Molecular Foundry facilities.

Current hydrogen storage misses capacity, cost targets. In the past five years, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have gone from a concept to reality. Automakers are starting to roll out commercial FCEVs and investments are being made to deploy hydrogen refueling infrastructure, especially in early markets, such as California and the Northeast.

However, the commercial FCEV light-duty vehicles are designed for 700-bar compressed hydrogen storage on board the vehicle and hydrogen-refueling infrastructure is being deployed for compressed hydrogen refueling. Although compressed hydrogen provides a near-term pathway to commercialization, this storage method falls short of DOE targets for onboard hydrogen storage, particularly for volumetric hydrogen energy density and cost.

Hydrogen, as a transportation fuel, has great potential to provide highly efficient power with nearly zero emissions. Storage materials are the limiting factor right now.

—Sandia chemist Mark Allendorf, the consortium’s director

Thermodynamics, kinetics challenges. Although HyMARC will consider all types of hydrogen storage materials, two categories of solid-state materials, novel sorbents and high-density metal hydrides, are of particular interest. These materials have the potential to meet DOE targets to deliver hydrogen at the right pressure and energy density to power a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

A key challenge is the thermodynamics—the energy and conditions necessary to release hydrogen during vehicle operation. Sorbents, which soak up hydrogen in nanometer-scale pores, bind hydrogen too weakly. In contrast, metal hydrides, which store hydrogen in chemical bonds, have the opposite problem—they bind the hydrogen too strongly.

The kinetics, the rate at which a chemical process occurs, is also an issue for high-density metal hydrides. These materials undergo complicated reactions during hydrogen release and uptake that can involve transitions between liquid, solid and gaseous phases. In some cases, the chemical reactions can form intermediates that trap hydrogen.

The consortium will explore several innovative ideas for solving these problems. The overall concept is to synthesize well-controlled materials to serve as model systems and develop experimental platforms for systematically probing key processes that limit performance.

Using these tools, we can study the hydrogen reactions with these materials using state-of-the-art techniques, such as those at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source and Molecular Foundry, which can provide unprecedented spatial resolution of material composition and character in real time.

—Jeff Urban, Berkeley Lab team lead

The HyMARC strategy embodies the approach highlighted within the recent Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) Strategic Plan for accelerated materials development. The focus is on developing a set of ready-to-use resources accessible to the entire hydrogen storage community.

With our extensive knowledge base of hydrogen storage materials and new tools for characterization, modeling and synthesizing materials, many of which were not available even five years ago, our goal is to develop codes, databases, synthetic protocols and characterization tools. These resources will create an entirely new capability that will enable accelerated materials development to achieve thermodynamics and kinetics required to meet DOE targets.

—Mark Allendorf



'Although compressed hydrogen provides a near-term pathway to commercialization, this storage method falls short of DOE targets for onboard hydrogen storage, particularly for volumetric hydrogen energy density and cost.'

Not really, unless one confused ultimate targets with intermediate ones.

Toyota have hit 5.7% by weight:

From memory, that is better than the DOE target for 2020!

Although not for their ultimate one, of 7% odd.


DOE's 7% target will certainly be reached and/or surpassed in the 2020s. Meanwhile, 5% to 6% from compressed H2 seems to do the job and supply 500+ Km extended range for FCEVs, even in cold weather areas.

Another positive side benefit from H2 vehicles is to be able to use them as clean emergency power units. The built in 12 to 36 hours of clean emergency power available could be extended to many days with a local H2 reservoir and/or with H2 refills during power outages.


I wish these researchers all the best, but if GM and LG meet the battery cell cost targets of $145 kWh in 2016 and $100 kWh in 2020 which GM announced last week, hydrogen drivetrains will have a difficult time competing with BEVs and PHEVs.

After storage is solved, there remain:

Fuel cell stack cost and durability. Mirai stack said to cost $50k.
Cost of infrastructure: low carbon H2 fuel production, distribution and dispensing


Agree; H2 cars really don't make sense. Mostly because they were defined by oil companies as an alternative to battery cars and pushed by paid politicians to slow down traction battery development and to extend our dependence on fossil fuels. In effect H2 is a continuation of dirty air, water, land and early deaths.


It seems some are determined to ignore the far faster progress in fuel cells and hydrogen production technologies than batteries, and the difficulty of charging cars without garages.


Toyota reckon they can take out 80% of the cost of a fuel cell stack by 2020, and it is absurd to base comment on ultimate production costs on low volume hand built trials.

Perhaps reckoning the costs of BEVs cars AFTER allowing for equalised taxation with ICE cars would result in a more realistic appreciation of cost structures.

Hydrogen production:

It appears critics are simply unable to take on board the immense progress being made from several directions in the production of hydrogen from renewable sources, as documented by numerous articles right here over the last few weeks.

This of course largely solves the problem of energy storage, whilst apparent 'alternatives' seem to simply imagine that the sun shines day and night at all latitudes, so that solar can solve everything without chemical intermediation.

Criticism is fine.
It is a shame when it is confined to trotting out canards without reference to changing technologies, or proper energy accounting.

The hydrogen infrastructure which was supposed to be impossible to build and never going to happen is being rolled out right now, for instance.


Good comments and discussion! It certainly was the plan of the fossil world to use hydrogen to maintain there grip on the energy world, but all serious scientific investigators knew all along that water splitting breakthroughs would make the production of hydrogen from fossil fuels unnecessary. The infrastructure may be in the process of being rolled out now, but it is clearly more expensive than the electrification infrastructure, even if you are installing curbside or parking lot charging for apartment dwellers.

Pitting the two technologies against each other is silly. Batteries have a head start and may be too far along in the personal vehicle realm for hydrogen to really catch up, but their is very likely areas of overlap or integration where the two together could offer expanded capabilities. Honestly, I can't understand why there is not at least a prototype PHEV not with ICE but with HFC or even potentially SOFC, perhaps used as an extender or "at work charger".


A fuel cell range extender for a PHEV makes sense if they can get the storage right. I would reform methanol and make it renewable.


New technologies, especially those that depend on the existence of a standardized infrastructure, establish dominance by securing market share faster than the alternatives.

Toyotas own senior engineers have said that hydrogen will not be competitive with ICEs until 2030.

In the US, there are now 500,000 EVs on the road, and there will be nearly 1,500,000 by 2020.

That's the year that Toyota plans to have 3,000 Mirai on US streets, almost all of them in California, the majority in Los Angeles. A road trip for those cars will be constrained to a small network of some 50 H2 fuel stations, at best, stretching from San Diego to San Francisco.

Hydrogen refuling stations are rather tricky to site and get permitted and cost $2.5 million to $4 million. EV chargers, especially the new wireless chargers, can be installed in any parking space for a few thousand dollars. Permitting is simple, because they are safer. No setback required.

If you like 500:1 long shots, hydrogen is a very exciting play.


Chargers may be cheaper and safer but the Lithium Ion Batteries certainly are not. Recent fire emergencies on several airlines have required the FAA to introduce new regulations specifically for these batteries. Shipping large quantities of lithium ion batteries by air has now become strengstens verboten, that is, not permitted. Batteries for in cabin credit card readers which caused a recent in flight emergency have been banned. Passengers have been warned not to back batteries in check-in luggage. As for cost of batteries if the government were not subsidizing BEV Tesla might not be in business.

How's that free market working for ya?

The comments to this entry are closed.