HydrogenResearchers at KTH have successfully tested a new material that can be used for cheap and large-scale production of hydrogen – a promising alternative to fossil fuel.

Precious metals are the standard catalyst material used for extracting hydrogen from water. The problem is these materials – such as platinum, ruthenium and iridium – are too costly to make the process viable. A team from KTH Royal Institute of Technology recently announced a breakthrough that could change the economics of a hydrogen economy.

Led by Licheng Sun, professor of molecular electronics at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the researchers concluded that precious metals can be replaced by a much cheaper combination of nickel, iron and copper (NiFeCu).

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Fuel Cell CarUsing advanced computational methods, University of Wisconsin–Madison materials scientists have discovered new materials that could bring widespread commercial use of solid oxide fuel cells closer to reality.

A solid oxide fuel cell is essentially an engine that provides an alternative way to burn fossil fuels or hydrogen to generate power. These fuel cells burn their fuel electrochemically instead of by combustion, and are more efficient than any practical combustion engine.

As an alternative energy technology, solid oxide fuel cells are a versatile, highly efficient power source that could play a vital role in the future of energy. Solid oxide fuel cells could be used in a variety of applications, from serving as a power supply for buildings to increasing fuel efficiency in vehicles.

However, solid oxide fuel cells are more costly than conventional energy technologies, and that has limited their adoption.

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Perspective on Fuel Cells

Fuel Cell CarFuel cells play a major role in creating a clean energy future, with a broad set of applications ranging from powering buildings to electrifying transportation. But, as with all emerging technologies, researchers have faced many barriers in developing affordable, efficient fuel cells and creating a way to cleanly produce the hydrogen that powers them.

In a new Perspective article, published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, researchers are aiming to tackle a fundamental debate in key reactions behind fuel cells and hydrogen production, which, if solved, could significantly bolster clean energy technologies.

In the open access article, “Perspective—Towards Establishing Apparent Hydrogen Binding Energy as the Descriptor for Hydrogen Oxidation/Evolution Reactions,” Yushan Yan and his coauthors from the University of Delaware provide an authoritative overview of work done in the areas of hydrogen oxidation and evolution, present key questions for debate, and provide paths for future innovation in the field.

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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 energy.gov/fuelcells.

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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