Bay-Area National Labs Team to Tackle Long-Standing Automotive Hydrogen-Storage Challenge

October 16, 2015 11:33 pm Published by

Sandia will lead the tri-lab Hydrogen Materials Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC: Sandia, Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryLLNL], and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory [LBNL]) to address scientific challenges to developing viable solid-state materials to store hydrogen onboard vehicles, leading to more reliable, economic hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles.

“Hydrogen, as a transportation fuel, has great potential to provide highly efficient power with nearly zero emissions,” said Sandia chemist Mark Allendorf (in Sandia’s Transportation Energy Center) the consortium’s director. “Storage materials are the limiting factor right now—storing hydrogen onboard vehicles is a critical enabling technology for creating hydrogen-fueled transportation systems that can reduce oil dependency and mitigate the long-term effects of burning fossil fuels on climate change,” said Allendorf.

Sandia chemist Mark Allendorf, shown here at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source facility, is leading the Hydrogen Materials Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC) to advance solid-state materials for onboard hydrogen storage. (Photo by Dino Vournas)

Sandia chemist Mark Allendorf, shown here at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source facility, is leading the Hydrogen Materials Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC) to advance solid-state materials for onboard hydrogen storage. (Photo by Dino Vournas)

HyMARC will address gaps in solid-state hydrogen storage by leveraging recent predictive multi-scale modeling advances, 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 HyMARC’s planned work, including understanding the kinetics and thermodynamics governing the physical properties of these storage-method types.

Although HyMARC will consider all hydrogen storage material types, two solid-state material categories are of particular interest: novel sorbents and high-density metal hydrides. 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.

For high-density metal hydrides, the kinetics (the rate at which a chemical process occurs) of hydrogen uptake and release are also issues. These materials undergo complicated reactions during those uptake and release processes that can involve transitions between liquid, solid, and gaseous phases. In some cases, the chemical reactions can form intermediates that can also trap the hydrogen.

“By focusing on the underlying properties and phenomena that limit storage-material performance, 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,” said Brandon Wood, who is leading 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. HyMARC will leverage the core capabilities of the three partners, primarily synthetic chemistry at Sandia, theory and modeling at LLNL, and characterization at LBNL. LLNL and Sandia world-class supercomputing facilities are also key elements of the team’s strategy to develop the enabling science for hydrogen solid storage technologies, along with advanced experimental tools available at LBNL’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) and Molecular Foundry facilities.

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 ALS and molecular foundry, which can provide unprecedented spatial resolution of material composition and character in real time,” said Jeff Urban, Berkeley Lab team lead.

“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,” said Allendorf. “These resources will create an entirely new capability that will enable accelerated materials development to achieve thermodynamics and kinetics required to meet DOE targets.”

This program is funded by DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Office.

Read the Sandia news release.

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