ECS Ride-and-Learn

Want to see Electrochemistry in Action and ride in one of the world’s first commercial fuel cell cars while at the 232nd ECS Meeting? Join us for a Ride-and Learn on Monday, October 2 from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm in front of the main entrance of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. This Ride-and-Learn is open to all ECS meeting attendees. First come, first serve.

Fuel cell cars run on hydrogen fuel, use a fuel cell that converts hydrogen into the electricity that powers the car’s electric motor and emit only water from the tailpipe. For the first time ever, they are commercially available, have started hitting the streets and the hydrogen stations to fuel them are up and running in select U.S. regions.

This Ride-and-Learn is organized by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. FCTO has funded early-stage hydrogen and fuel cells research and development enabling a 60 percent reduction in fuel cell cost, a fourfold increase in fuel cell durability and an 80 percent cut in the cost of electrolyzers over the past decade. You can learn more about this exciting technology and the work FCTO funds to enable hydrogen and fuel cell technological breakthroughs at

Following the 232nd ECS Meeting, the third annual National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day will take place on October 8, 2017, aimed at raising awareness and celebrating advances in fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy, Fuel Cell and Hydrogen and Energy Association , its members, industry organizations, and state and federal governments will be commemorating National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell day with a variety of activities and events across the country.


HydrogenHydrogen has many highly sought after qualities when it comes to clean energy sources. It is a simple element, high in energy, and produces nearly zero harmful emissions. However, while hydrogen is one of the most plentiful elements in the universe, it does not occur naturally as a gas. Instead, we find it combined with other elements, like oxygen in the form of water. For many researchers, water-splitting has been a way to isolate hydrogen for use in cars, houses, and other sustainable fuels.

But water-splitting requires an effective catalyst to speed up chemical reactions, while simultaneously preventing the gasses to recombine. Researchers from the DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory believe they may have the answer with the new development of a molybdenum coating that can potentially improve water-splitting.

“When you split water into hydrogen and oxygen, the gaseous products of the reaction are easily recombined back to water and it’s crucial to avoid this,” says Angel Garcia-Esparza, lead author of the study. “We discovered that a molybdenum-coated catalyst is capable of selectively producing hydrogen from water while inhibiting the back reactions of water formation.”


HydrogenSometimes the biggest advancements are the smallest in size.

A multidisciplinary team from Sandia National Laboratories recently demonstrated that notion by using nanoparticles and a nanoconfinement system to improve the performance of hydrogen storage materials. The researchers believe that this development is a step in the right direction to improve efficiency of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.

Currently, hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles store hydrogen as a high-pressure gas. However, the researchers argue that a solid material would be able to act like a sponge, with the ability to absorb and release hydrogen more efficiently. Using a hydrogen storage material of this nature could increase the amount of hydrogen able to be stored in a vehicle. In order to be efficient and competitive in the transportation sector, a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle would have to be able to travel 300 miles before refueling.

“There are two critical problems with existing sponges for hydrogen storage,” says Vitalie Stavila, co-author of the study and past ECS member. “Most can’t soak up enough hydrogen for cars. Also, the sponges don’t release and absorb hydrogen fast enough, especially compared to the 5 minutes needed for fueling.”


HydrogenNew research led by ECS Fellow John Turner, researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, demonstrates a pioneering, efficient way to make renewable hydrogen.

Hydrogen has many highly sought after qualities when he comes to clean energy sources. It is a simple element, high in energy, and produces almost zero pollution when burned. However, while hydrogen is one of the most plentiful elements in the universe, it doesn’t occur naturally as a gas – instead, it’s always combined with other elements. That’s where efforts in water-splitting come in.

If researchers can effectively split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, new branches of hydrogen production could emerge.

Turner and his team are working on a method to boost the longevity of highly efficient photochatodes in photoelectrochemical water-splitting devices.

“Electrochemistry nowadays is really the key,” Turner told ECS during a podcast in 2015. “We have fuel cells, we have electrolyzers, and we have batteries. All of the things going on in transportation and storage, it all comes down to electrochemical energy conversion.”


HydrogenWith hydrogen power stations in California, a new Japanese consumer car and portable hydrogen fuel cells for electronics, hydrogen as a zero emission fuel source is now finally becoming a reality for the average consumer. When combined with oxygen in the presence of a catalyst, hydrogen releases energy and bonds with the oxygen to form water.

The two main difficulties preventing us from having hydrogen power everything we have are storage and production. At the moment, hydrogen production is energy-intensive and expensive. Normally, industrial production of hydrogen requires high temperatures, large facilities and an enormous amount of energy. In fact, it usually comes from fossil fuels like natural gas – and therefore isn’t actually a zero-emission fuel source. Making the process cheaper, efficient and sustainable would go a long way toward making hydrogen a more commonly used fuel.

An excellent – and abundant – source of hydrogen is water. But chemically, that requires reversing the reaction in which hydrogen releases energy when combining with other chemicals. That means we have to put energy into a compound, to get the hydrogen out. Maximizing the efficiency of this process would be significant progress toward a clean-energy future.

One method involves mixing water with a helpful chemical, a catalyst, to reduce the amount of energy needed to break the connections between hydrogen and oxygen atoms. There are several promising catalysts for hydrogen generation, including molybdenum sulfide, graphene and cadmium sulfate. My research focuses on modifying the molecular properties of molybdenum sulfide to make the reaction even more effective and more efficient.

Making hydrogen

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but it’s rarely available as pure hydrogen. Rather, it combines with other elements to form a great many chemicals and compounds, such as organic solvents like methanol, and proteins in the human body. Its pure form, H₂, can used as a transportable and efficient fuel.


Solar-to-Hydrogen Production

The device is able to convert solar energy into hydrogen at a rate of 14.2 percent, and has already been run for more than 100 hours straight.
Image: Infini Lab/EPFL

One of the biggest barriers between renewables and widespread grid implementation has been the issue of intermittency. How can we meet a nation’s energy demands with solar when the sun goes down?

In an effort to move past these barriers toward a cleaner energy infrastructure, a new paper published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society describes an effective, low-cost solution for storing solar energy.

The research team from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne is looking to covert solar energy into hydrogen through water electrolysis. At its core, the concept revolves around using solar-produced electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, leaving clean hydrogen to be stored as future energy or even as a fuel.

But this idea is not new to the scientific community. However, the research published in JES provides answer to continuous barriers in this field related to stability, scaling, and efficiency.


Grass could become an affordable source of clean, renewable energy, according to a team of researchers from Cardiff University.

A recently published study states that significant amounts of hydrogen could be extracted from grass with the help of sunlight and a cheap catalyst.

This from Cardiff University:

It is the first time that this method has been demonstrated and could potentially lead to a sustainable way of producing hydrogen, which has enormous potential in the renewable energy industry due to its high energy content and the fact that it does not release toxic or greenhouse gases when it is burnt.

Read the full article.

“Hydrogen is seen as an important future energy carrier as the world moves from fossil fuels to renewable feedstocks,” says Michael Bowker, co-author of the study, “and our research has shown that even garden grass could be a good way of getting hold of it.”


A new collaborative study from Delft University and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) shows a highly-efficient, simple way to produce hydrogen through solar water-splitting at a low cost.

The team of researchers, including 2016 PRiME Plenary speaker Michael Graetzel, state that by using Earth-abundant catalysts and solar cells, effective water-splitting systems could sustainably produce affordable hydrogen.

Graetzel, known for his low-cost, high-efficiency solar cell that won him the 2010 Millennium Technology Grand Prize, helped lead the effort by separating the positive and negative electrodes using a bipolar membrane, leading to a simple yet effective new method.

Hydrogen economy

The technology behind water-splitting is essential in an economy shifting toward more hydrogen use as alternative fuels. While efficient methods of generating hydrogen do currently exist, the techniques used to produce the gas consume large amounts of fossil fuels.

Moving toward a hydrogen economy could help alleviate the effects of climate change, but only if the means used to produce the gas are also sustainable. This is where water-splitting comes in.


The technique of producing hydrogen from water has been discussed by researchers for the better part of the last 40 years, but there has yet to be a breakthrough to make these processes commercially viable.

In an effort to move towards a hydrogen-fuel economy, researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology are looking to begin to overcome one of the major hurdles by developing an affordable, stable way to get hydrogen from water.

The main concept behind the study is to move way from traditionally used catalysts made from expensive precious metals toward ones of common materials. The researchers believe that the new development derived from earth-abundant materials could also be used as a catalyst, possible overcoming the cost obstacle.


University of Iowa researchers have teamed up with California-based startup HyperSolar to progress the science in producing clean energy from sunlight and water. The goal of this research is to develop a way to efficiently and sustainably produce low-cost renewable hydrogen for commercial use.

Hydrogen has huge potential as an alternative form of energy. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, hydrogen has the highest energy content of any fuel we use today (carbon dependent fuels included).

But hydrogen is not a naturally occurring element on this planet, so it needs to be produced. Currently, most hydrogen is produced via steam reforming – a process using fossil fuels and creating carbon dioxide. While the end produce is clan, renewable energy, the means of getting to that product were carbon dependent. The new study hopes to help move hydrogen production away from the traditional means of creation and toward electrolysis, which requires only electricity and water to create hydrogen.

“Developing clean energy systems is a goal worldwide,” says Syed Mubeen, HyperSolar’s lead scientist and chemical engineering professor at the University of Iowa. “Currently, we understand how clean energy systems such as solar cells, wind turbines, et cetera, work at a high level of sophistication. The real challenge going forward is to develop inexpensive clean energy systems that can be cost competitive to fossil fuel systems and be adopted globally and not just in the developed countries.”


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