The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies (FCT) Program will award up to $12 million to groups working to advance hydrogen storage technologies. This time around, the FCT Program wants to fund hydrogen storage technologies focused on reducing the costs associated with hydrogen tanks and developing advanced materials that can withstand high pressure, but that don't cost an arm and a leg.

The DOE hopes that by funding research and development of hydrogen storage tanks, costs for 350- to 700-bar storage vessels can be reduced by at least 50 percent. The FCT program seeks proposals in these two areas:
  • Research and development that will facilitate cost reduction from novel tank designs and concepts; reduction of carbon fiber requirement; and advanced manufacturing technologies such as fiber placement or high speed winding.
  • Development of low-cost, high-strength fibers. Proposed approaches may include use of less expensive precursors, using low-cost manufacturing processes or developing alternative materials to carbon such as glass or polymers.
Perhaps this sort of research and development will lead more automakers to commit to launching sub-$50,000 hydrogen-fueled vehicles. Perhaps.

[Source: Department of Energy]
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DOE to award up to $12M for applied RD in hydrogen storage technologies

The US Department of Energy's (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies (FCT) Program will award up to $12 million to advance hydrogen storage technologies. A non-federal cost share of 20% is required for the projects.

This FCT Program Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000421) seeks to fund applied hydrogen storage R&D focused on innovative approaches for pressurized and/or low temperature tank cost reduction and new storage materials development, characterization and performance determination efforts to address the challenges of hydrogen storage for stationary, early market, and transportation applications. The FOA specifies two distinct technical topics: Reducing the Cost of Hydrogen Storage Tanks; and New Materials Discovery.

Reducing the Cost of Hydrogen Storage Tanks. The goal of research carried out under this topic is to reduce the cost of 350 to 700 bar compressed gas storage vessels by at least 50% from the current high volume projections of $15.4/kWh to $6/kWh.

Currently, high-pressure (i.e., 350 to 700 bar) storage vessels are constructed using expensive high-strength carbon fiber, such as Toray T700S, in a composite matrix as an overwrap to contain the stress. Low-cost carbon fiber precursors, low-cost carbon fiber manufacture processes, tank designs that reduce use of carbon fiber, lower cost tank manufacturing processes, and/or alternative structural materials such as glass or other inexpensive fibers are all potential solutions to reducing the overall system tank costs while meeting DOE 2015 performance targets for hydrogen storage.

Before compressed hydrogen gas storage vessel technology can move forward to widespread applications, solutions must be developed to achieve substantial cost reductions. An example of a possible solution is using fibers with mechanical strengths matching or exceeding the properties of aerospace quality carbon fiber (e.g. greater than 600 ksi ultimate tensile strength) that have costs significantly lower than currently available [1]. As hydrogen storage material technology is developed, similar needs will exist for low-cost, moderate pressure tanks (e.g., less than 300 bar).

DOE is seeking proposals for this topic using two distinct approaches:

Approach 1 solicits R&D that will facilitate cost reduction from novel tank designs and concepts; reduction of carbon fiber requirement; and advanced manufacturing technologies such as fiber placement or high speed winding. DOE will also consider novel tank designs and concepts that reduce costs over current 350 and 700 bar ambient temperature pressure tanks while having the potential to meet or exceed DOE 2015 performance targets.

These concepts can include tanks that reduce or eliminate use of carbon fiber composites through novel designs, cryogenic operation, conformability or other means.

Approach 2 solicits development of low-cost, high-strength fibers. Proposed approaches may include use of less expensive precursors, using low-cost manufacturing processes (including associated pre-treatments, stabilization (cross-linking), oxidation, carbonization, graphitization, post-treatments, and packaging) or developing alternative materials to carbon such as glass or polymers.

The goal is to significantly lower current high-strength fiber (greater than 600 ksi ultimate tensile strength) costs by at least 50% from $13/lb to about $6/lb.

New Materials Discovery. The FCT Program is continuing the development of hydrogen storage systems for multiple applications. While numerous candidates (i.e., metal and complex hydrides, high-surface area adsorbents, and chemical hydrogen storage materials) have been proposed and investigated as hydrogen storage media in recent years, none are currently able to satisfy all the performance targets required for light-duty vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The DOE remains interested in the discovery, development and characterization of advanced hydrogen storage materials. These materials must not only have net available volumetric and gravimetric capacities that exceed the system targets, but also have sufficiently fast hydrogen fill/discharge kinetics and reaction rates and suitable output pressures (i.e., 3 to 12 bar) at temperatures ideally at or below the operating temperature of Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cells (e.g., 80 °C).

Suitable storage materials need to react reversibly with hydrogen gas at pressures realistically achievable with an automotive refueling infrastructure (i.e. no greater than 350-700 bar currently used for compressed H2 storage), or can be regenerated off-board the vehicle in a cost effective and energy efficient manner. Material development should not repeat work that has already been accomplished by the hydrogen storage R&D community.

DOE seeks proposals for the identification, synthesis, verification, and development of hydrogen storage materials which when incorporated into a system have the potential to exceed all of the DOE system performance targets. While first principles calculations or modeling analyses can be used to predict promising reactions, projects should include emphasis on an experimental component. Topic 2 places emphasis on preparation and synthesis of the materials and laboratory evaluations and demonstrations of their hydrogen capacities, kinetics, and thermodynamic properties under conditions practical for the application.

The scope of these investigations could also include examination of catalysts and/or additives that can significantly enhance the storage capacities, reaction kinetics or improvements to the pressure-temperature parameters of previously identified high-capacity storage candidates that are not adequate for vehicle storage applications without further improvements. An example would be the destabilized metal hydride system LiBH4-MgH2 the kinetic rates of which were observed to be very slow below 350°C.

Applicants need to clearly describe how their proposed efforts differ from current and previous research and how their efforts will advance the state-of-the-art in hydrogen storage materials and address the remaining challenges (i.e., reversibility, sorption kinetics, operating temperature and costs).

Neither hydrolysis of sodium borohydride nor pure, undoped single-walled carbon nanotubes as on-board storage media, are being solicited to be consistent with the Program's no-go decisions in these areas. Applications in these areas will not be reviewed. Systems that were discontinued for investigation by the three DOE Hydrogen Storage Material Centers of Excellence are also not solicited as on-board storage media unless a new approach has been developed that addresses the reasons why the subject material was discontinued for R&D.

DOE also seeks proposals for unique material characterization techniques that are critical to the design and understanding of improved materials topics such as catalyst design, kinetics mechanisms, and reaction mechanisms.

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