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The Use of Hydrogen as an Energy Carrier

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President Bush initiated a major program to accelerate the development of a national hydrogen economy. The goal is to reverse America's growing dependence on foreign oil by developing science and technology for commercially viable fuel cells that use hydrogen to power cars, trucks, homes, and businesses without directly emitting pollution or greenhouse gases.

This national initiative encompasses basic scientific research and technology development for the widespread production, storage, and distribution of hydrogen and for its use in fuel cell vehicles, industrial production, heating, and electricity generation.

To support the national hydrogen initiative, Argonne has mounted a coordinated effort that integrates our state-of-the-art user facilities with our expertise in basic science and technology development and deployment.

Our pursuit of these objectives draws on our broad knowledge of materials science and chemistry to coordinate research programs from basic to applied science.

Our extensive expertise in chemical engineering, system analysis, and nuclear reactor technology is being used to investigate hydrogen production from nuclear power.

Hydrogen Research and Development Initiative

Argonne's Hydrogen Research and Development Initiative has seven coordinated components:

Catalysis for Hydrogen Chemistry

Catalysis is ripe for fundamental advances through the use of modern experimental and theoretical tools that were unavailable even five years ago. The knowledge gained from these studies is expected to significantly improve the cost, performance, and reliability of many chemical processes needed for a hydrogen economy.

Nanocatalysis of Precious/ Nonprecious MetalsNanocatalysis of Precious/ Nonprecious Metals

  1. Surface structure and excitation analysis using x ray scattering at a novel in situ electrochemical cell at the APS,
  2. Nanoscale surface modification through lithography and self-assembly at the Center for Nanoscale Materials,
  3. Transmission electron microscopy at the Electron Microscopy Center,
  4. Local electronic structure analysis using scanning tunneling microscopy, and
  5. Quantum chemical theory and simulation for catalytic geometries.

Argonne report, "Basic Research Needs for the Hydrogen Economy: Report of the Basic Energy Sciences Workshop on Hydrogen Production, Storage, and Use," May 13-15, 2003

Hydrogen Production

We are exploring a variety of options for using domestic energy resources—fossil, nuclear, and renewable— to efficiently produce hydrogen.

A potential transition strategy to a hydrogen economy includes the co-production of electricity and hydrogen from fossil fuels, with stringent environmental controls and carbon sequestration. To support this transition strategy, we are developing fuel-processing technology as a near-term means of producing hydrogen from fossil fuels or from renewable fuels such as ethanol.

Simultaneously, we are pursuing technologies for extracting hydrogen from water based on heat from a nuclear power plant or a solar collector. Research includes:

  1. Co-generating electricity and hydrogen by nuclear power and
  2. Developing novel lower-temperature thermochemical cycles, high-temperature electrolysis, and advanced membranes to generate hydrogen from water.

Internal view of a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cellInternal view of a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell

By developing the next generation of nuclear reactors (Generation IV) in conjunction with efficient hydrogen-generation technology, we will address the nation’s two major energy needs—electricity and transportation fuels—with no carbon emissions.

Hydrogen Storage

  • Click on image to view larger imageA major challenge to the success of hydrogen-powered vehicles is the development of lightweight, compact, safe onboard hydrogen storage.

    We are exploring new and innovative concepts for storing hydrogen.
    This research will benefit significantly from work at Argonne’s emerging Center for Nanoscale Materials.

Hydrogen Utilization

Our work on hydrogen utilization builds on our extensive, wide-ranging partnerships with federal and nonfederal organizations in areas crucial to developing this aspect of the hydrogen economy.

Argonne is a leader in the development of higher-temperature proton conducting membranes. Argonne studies degradation mechanisms and designs materials with tailored nano-structures in support of proton exchange membrane fuel cell development.

Argonne is also a leader in the development of solid-oxide fuel cell technology. We develop theory, modeling, and simulation of electrochemical materials and processes; new materials; novel synthesis routes for optimized architectures; and advanced in-situ analytical tools.

We have conducted research with the automotive industry and its suppliers through the FreedomCAR Partnership, helped fuel cell companies develop products, worked with state and local government agencies on alternative-fuel demonstrations, and helped electric power companies analyze the technological requirements for load management and transmission.

Infrastructure Development

In collaboration with Canadian partners in the "2050 Study," we are examining long-range supply-and-demand scenarios for transportation fuels.

Our expertise in infrastructure assurance enables us to identify the steps needed to ensure that a national network for hydrogen transmission and distribution is safe and secure.

We help DOE make technological program decisions based on safety, economics, environmental impact, and reliability of technology options within an evolving hydrogen economy. Our system integration studies rely on unique Argonne-developed agent-based modeling, simulation, and decision-making tools.

Environmental Research

Environmental impacts from the transition to a hydrogen economy must be considered.

We are drawing on our broad expertise in environmental research to investigate largely unanswered questions regarding the possible atmospheric and global-warming impacts of hydrogen leaks and other losses from vehicles and a national hydrogen infrastructure.

Technology Validation

  • Fuel cell powered bus at ArgonneAfter the appropriate technologies have been developed, it will be necessary to evaluate and validate hydrogen-powered vehicles, hydrogen production, and other infrastructure. We will form a regional partnership with vehicle developers, energy suppliers, and vehicle fleet operators for needed hydrogen technology demonstrations.
  • Argonne’s Center for Transportation Research provides important expertise and facilities for hydrogen-related technology validation.

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Last Modified: Fri, February 8, 2013 11:27 AM


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