DOE’s $10M Advanced Water Splitting Materials Consortium accelerating development of green hydrogen production
24 October 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.
As part of the EMN, the HydroGEN consortium will provide industry and academia the expertise and capabilities to more quickly develop, characterize, and deploy high-performance, low-cost advanced water-splitting materials for lower cost hydrogen production.
HydroGEN will address advanced water splitting materials challenges by:
Making novel national lab capabilities, expertise, techniques, and equipment relevant to advanced water-splitting materials research more accessible to external stakeholders, including researchers in industry, academia, and other laboratories.
Establishing robust online data portals that capture and share the results of non-proprietary research.
Facilitating collaboration between researchers working on the three water-splitting pathways and addressing common materials challenges and resource needs, such as high-throughput synthesis techniques and auxiliary component design.
Currently, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) funds research and development of low-carbon hydrogen production pathways. By establishing HydroGEN, the DOE intends to accelerate innovation with the assistance of the national laboratories.
The new consortium is led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and also includes Sandia National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Savannah River National Laboratory.
The consortium’s newly launched website details capabilities being made available to companies, academia, and other labs, and also details mechanisms for engagement.
EMN focuses on tackling one of the major barriers to widespread commercialization of clean energy technologies—the integrated design, testing, and production of advanced materials. By strengthening and facilitating industry access to the unique resources available at the Energy Department's national labs, the network will help industry bring these materials to market more quickly.
Each EMN consortium will bring together national labs, industry, and academia to focus on specific classes of materials aligned with industry's most pressing challenges related to materials for clean energy technologies. The EMN consortia that have been launched thus far are:
HydroGEN focuses on advanced water splitting materials, initially for the photoelectrochemical, solar thermochemical, and advanced electrolytic hydrogen production pathways.
Hydrogen Materials – Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC) focuses on the thermodynamic and kinetic limitations of storage materials, to create an entirely new capability that will enable accelerated materials development to improve energy storage.
Electrocatalysis Consortium (ElectroCat) is dedicated to finding new ways to replace the platinum group metals currently used in hydrogen fuel cells with inexpensive and more abundant substitutes, such as iron and cobalt.
Lightweight Materials Consortium (LightMat) focuses on materials that can lightweight vehicles to increase fuel efficiency, such as specialized alloys and carbon fiber-reinforced polymer composites that can be manufactured on a large scale.
Durable Module Materials Consortium (DuraMat) focuses on durable photovoltaic (PV) module materials to further optimize reliability and capacity of low-cost PV modules.
Caloric Cooling Consortium (CaloriCool) focuses on development of caloric materials for cooling applications.
Chemical Catalysts for Bioenergy (ChemCat Bio) is dedicated to identifying and overcoming catalysis challenges for biomass conversion processes.
I am a firm believer in scientific research. However, I do not understand the concept of excess "renewable" energy. We currently get about 11 to 13 percent of our electric power generation from renewable sources and about half of that or~6.25% is from hydro which is a fairly static number. About 4 or 5 % is wind and ~1% is solar. The rest is biomass with a small amount of geothermal. Some of the biomass is probably not much cleaner than coal. The amount of hydro has remained about the same for decades. The amount of wind is growing some and solar will probably grow more rapidly for a while but we are a long ways away from having excess renewable energy See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States if you want to puzzle thru the numbers yourself.
Anyway, maybe you have 6% renewable from wind and solar which fluctuates wildly requiring fast response backup power. But it is a long way from going to excess.
My argument remains that if you pull wind or solar off the grid to make hydrogen, you end up needing to replace it with some other source which is probably either natural gas or coal as the nuclear plants are already running flat out all the time.
Posted by: sd | 24 October 2016 at 09:32 AM
Use lower cost catalyst, pressure, heat and sell the O2.
Posted by: SJC | 24 October 2016 at 09:36 AM
It depends on when the power is available.
I have not checked recently, but a few years ago even Spain's wind output averaged 10% of the grid.
In a gale though it could hit over 100% of the Spanish grid, and was thrown away.
There is also the question of economics.
Variable load is expensive to switch on and off, and a lot of stuff operates as base load, so for instance nuclear and hydro both run at a relatively constant rate,.
So if you have a lot of wind happening in some periods of the year at night, when demand is low and the grid is operating on base load, then it does not take a lot to have surplus power.
Similarly even in northerly Germany, on a warm summers day ( air con and its power demand are relatively rare in Germany ) solar can be providing for several hours around mid-day more than the grid needs in total.
Posted by: Davemart | 24 October 2016 at 10:46 AM
Renewable energy can be used for point of dispense H2 electrolysis,
the compression heat can be used in the endothermic reaction for higher efficiency.
Posted by: SJC | 24 October 2016 at 11:07 AM
Lots of places have excess renewables, or are very close to it.
Germany, Portugal, Denmark, Ireland for instance.
Some of these can export to neighbouring countries (Denmark for instance). The same can happen with Germany on windy, sunny summer days (particularly Sunday noontime), but the numbers are so big here that it seriously disrupts the neighbouring grids and markets.
There are also other grid contraints (frequency stability for instance) which reduce the amount of renewables to can put onto a grid.
A way of soaking up excess renewables would be a great boon, IF it was cheap and efficient enough (big if).
The problem with H2 is that you have to make it, then store and transport it, both of which are non-trivial as it can embrittle metal and diffuse through things that can stop larger molecules.
It really is a lousy fuel, better to combine it with CO2 and make ethanol.
Posted by: mahonj | 24 October 2016 at 01:00 PM
Even today already 1000ds of tons of H2 are used to upgrade crude to fuel, to produce NH3 for fertilizers, for production of chemicals, in the food industry,...
Simply producing this H2 from excess renewables instead of fossils would be great.
Simply replacing this fossil H2 could absorb a lot of excess electricity and save many megatons of CO2.
Future applications are a bonus.
Posted by: Alain | 24 October 2016 at 04:54 PM
Norway alone plans to export 3 million tons of hydrogen pa from excess renewables.
That's enough for 15 million or so FCEVs.
Posted by: Davemart | 25 October 2016 at 01:17 AM
REs such as Hydro, Wind and Solar often produce much more than total demands, specially outside peak demand hours/periods = (about 18 hours/day Monday to Friday + 24/7 on week ends and Holidays)
Hydro power plants with reservoirs can store excess energy as water except during rainy seasons when reservoirs often over flow.
Hydro without reservoirs have to let the water (over flow) to avoid flooding for a net waste of energy.
Energy from Wind mills and Solar farms have the same problem whenever production does not match demand.
Norway and Quebec could produce TONNES of clean H2 from excess electricity (during all periods outside peak demand hours) at very low rates (about CAN $ 0.028/kWh) or US $0.021/kWh). Norway being smarter, will soon produce clean H2 from excess REs and export it (3 to 10 million tonnes/year) to other EU countries.
Posted by: HarveyD | 26 October 2016 at 09:10 AM