There will be a celebration going on in the Berkeley Hills this weekend, and it’s not just a student party or football game. Rather, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) and from all over the world will be celebrating the second annual National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day on Saturday, October 8, 2016.
National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day was created to help build awareness of clean air technology, science and research that is a top priority, and has been for many years, at Berkeley Lab and particularlyat the Energy Technologies Area (ETA).
October 8 (10.8) was chosen in reference to the atomic weight of hydrogen (1.008).
Fuel cells are considered one of the most promising and fast-growing clean energy technologies. In 2014, about 50,000 fuel cell units were shipped worldwide, with a nearly 30 percent market growth every year since 2010. Hyundai and Toyota have both recently introduced their FCEVs (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles), and Honda has plans to introduce this year. Several other companies also plan to release FCEVs soon including GM, Daimler, Honda, and BMW.
Berkeley Lab Emphasis on Clean Energy
“The LBNL Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Program has grown substantially over the last few years,” said Adam Weber, who has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and is Berkeley Lab's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Program Manager. “Across the lab, we are involved in everything from generation to storage to use in fuel cells. The introduction of hydrogen-powered cars on the road is a significant step forward, and new initiatives like H2@SCALE demonstrate promising ways that hydrogen will help us meet U.S. decarbonization goals.”
At Berkeley Lab there are several projects going on, including HyMARC (Hydrogen Materials – advanced research consortium), FC-PAD (Fuel Cells – Performance and Durability) and HydroGen-AWSM (Hydrogen generation – advanced water splitting materials), Weber said. He is also on the steering committee and working with the H2@SCALE team, which is a Department of Energy (DOE) “Big Idea” that works toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020, 26-28 percent by 2025, and 83 percent by 2050 from a 2005 baseline.
Finally, there is increasing interest in hydrogen and fuel cell research utilizing the user facilities at the Lab. For example:
- Solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFC) are a promising path toward the “clean” conversion of chemical energy to electrical energy with little or no carbon dioxide emission. With the help of the Advanced Light Source user facility at Berkeley Lab, researchers recently found a way to treat SOFC cathode surfaces so that they perform better and last longer.
- Scientists Kristin Persson and Donald Winston of the Lab’s Materials Project contributed to the world’s largest database of elemental crystal surfaces and shapes to date. This new database can help researchers design new materials for technologies in which surfaces and interfaces play an important role, such as fuel cells, catalytic converters, microchips, nanomaterials and solid-state batteries.
In other hydrogen-related projects at Berkeley Lab:
- HydroGEN Consortium (HydroGEN)–this consortium will accelerate the development of advanced water splitting materials for hydrogen production, with an initial focus on advanced electrolytic, photoelectrochemical, and solar thermochemical pathways.
- Hydrogen Materials—Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC)–this consortium aims to address unsolved scientific challenges in the development of viable solid-state materials for storage of hydrogen onboard vehicles.
Research conducted on fuel cells is aimed at reducing the total cost by decreasing the amount of Pt catalyst required without sacrificing performance or lifetimes, Weber said.
“We have conducted studies to understand the key limitations within the catalyst layers where the reactions occur. Through mathematical modeling and advanced diagnostics are starting to comprehend how these complex structures form and the individual component functionalities,” he said.
National Recognition of Hydrogen
Hydrogen use in clean energy, and the fuel cell industry are showing record momentum, the Department of Energy announced in a press release issued October 5, 2016. The 2015 Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report shows that hydrogen and fuel cells continue to grow at an unprecedented rate, with more than 60,000 fuel cells, totaling roughly 300 megawatts (MW), shipped worldwide in 2015. The number of MW shipped grew by more than 65% compared to 2014.
To further expand on this emerging market, the Energy Department this week announced a notice of intent to invest $30 million, subject to appropriations, to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. These projects will leverage national lab consortia launched under the Energy Department's Energy Materials Network this past year, and will support the President’s Materials Genome Initiative and advanced manufacturing priorities.