Advancements in Hydrogen Storage: A Key Technology for the Future of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies

The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO) is leading the development of advanced hydrogen storage systems that are crucial for the progress of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. These storage systems aim to provide extended driving ranges, meet cost and safety requirements, and enhance overall performance. This article explores the significance of hydrogen storage, its functioning, research goals, and the challenges faced in achieving high-density storage.

The Importance of Hydrogen Storage

Hydrogen storage plays a vital role in various applications, including stationary power, portable power, and transportation. Although hydrogen boasts the highest energy per unit mass of any fuel, its low density at ambient conditions necessitates the development of innovative storage methods to achieve higher energy density. HFTO recognizes the need to advance hydrogen storage technologies to facilitate the widespread adoption of hydrogen as a clean energy source.

Storage Options for Hydrogen

Hydrogen can be stored either as a gas or a liquid. Storing hydrogen as a gas requires high-pressure tanks, typically ranging from 350 to 700 bar. On the other hand, storing hydrogen as a liquid necessitates extremely low temperatures, as low as -252.8°C. Additionally, hydrogen can be stored through adsorption on solid surfaces or absorption within solids.

Research and Development Goals

HFTO is actively engaged in research and development activities to advance hydrogen storage systems technology and explore novel materials for hydrogen storage. The primary objective is to meet the hydrogen storage targets set by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for various applications, such as light-duty vehicles, material-handling equipment, and portable power. By 2020, HFTO aims to develop and validate onboard automotive hydrogen storage systems that achieve specific system targets, including energy content of 1.5 kWh/kg, energy density of 1.0 kWh/L, and cost of $10/kWh.

Challenges in Hydrogen Storage

High-density hydrogen storage poses significant challenges across stationary, portable, and transportation applications. Current storage options often require large-volume systems to store hydrogen in gaseous form. While this is less of a concern for stationary applications, it presents a challenge for fuel-cell-powered vehicles that require a driving range of over 300 miles. Compressed gas storage using large-volume, high-pressure composite vessels is the prevailing solution for light-duty hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), but providing sufficient storage capacity remains a hurdle.

Multi-Pronged Approach

HFTO is pursuing a two-fold strategic approach to tackle the challenges of hydrogen storage. In the near term, a focus is placed on compressed gas storage utilizing advanced pressure vessels made of fiber reinforced composites capable of reaching pressures up to 700 bar. This approach emphasizes cost reduction. In the long term, attention is given to cold or cryo-compressed hydrogen storage, which involves leveraging increased hydrogen density and insulated pressure vessels to meet DOE targets. Furthermore, HFTO explores materials-based hydrogen storage technologies, including sorbents, chemical hydrogen storage materials, and metal hydrides, which hold promise for meeting hydrogen storage targets.

Final Thoughts

Advances in hydrogen storage technology are pivotal for the widespread adoption and success of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. HFTO’s ongoing efforts in research, development, and target-driven initiatives bring us closer to achieving cost-effective, safe, and high-performance hydrogen storage systems. As hydrogen continues to emerge as a leading clean energy solution, advancements in storage will play a critical role in realizing its full potential across various sectors.

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