Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Sandia National Laboratories have joined forces to reduce costs and improve the reliability of hydrogen fuelling stations, H2 View has learned.
The laboratories aim to do this by identifying materials that ‘won’t break down’.
The Hydrogen Materials Compatibility Consortium – or H-Mat as it known – is conducting early-stage research to understand how hydrogen affects the polymers and metals used in infrastructure to store, transport, compress, and dispense the fuel.
“Put simply, the consortium’s goal is to improve the reliability and durability of materials used in hydrogen infrastructure while also identifying alternative, less expensive materials that reduce equipment replacement cycles and downtime at fuelling stations”
As a small and reactive molecule that can cause materials to behave differently than they would in air, hydrogen’s very nature drives developers to engineer components such as metal tanks, polymer hoses, and seals that can withstand repeated cycling of materials from high to low pressure. Identifying and developing materials that are more resistant to degradation, such as hydrogen embrittlement in metals or blistering and micro cracking in polymers, will increase component lifetimes and reduce maintenance requirements.
Put simply, the consortium’s goal is to improve the reliability and durability of materials used in hydrogen infrastructure while also identifying alternative, less expensive materials that reduce equipment replacement cycles and downtime at fuelling stations.
The research collaboration includes industry, academia, and three additional national laboratories – Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Savannah River National Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory.
Together, the consortium supports the DOE’s [email protected] initiative, launched by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office.
The focus of [email protected] is to advance affordable wide-scale hydrogen production, transport, storage, and utilisation to unlock revenue potential and value across sectors.
The use of hydrogen in fuel cells is growing rapidly for multiple applications, such as forklifts, vehicles – including buses and trucks – and stationary power.
In order to develop better materials, the collaborative research team recognise it must first understand how hydrogen interacts with materials.
The team, which comprises world-class scientists who have been recognised for their expertise in polymer and steel hydrogen compatibility, will work over a four-year period to enhance durability and lower the costs of seals and storage vessels.
This research will be relevant to many current and emerging applications, including hydrogen storage, on-board fuel cell vehicles, hydrogen fuelling stations, and hydrogen energy storage.
The team will develop strategies to select or design improved materials using a combination of advanced computation and unique experimental facilities across the national laboratory system.
It has an inherent advantage in that, the Hydrogen Effects on Materials Laboratory at Sandia is one of a few research facilities in the US that allows for the mechanics of materials to be studied in high-pressure hydrogen. Sandia is focusing on the metals portion of the study.
“H2 View understands the non-proprietary data obtained as part of the H-Mat Consortium is being made publicly available to accelerate national research and development in materials compatibility”
PNNL, meanwhile, is focused on the polymers portion of the study. Its Hydrogen Polymers Characterization Laboratory houses unique capabilities for measuring degradation of polymers, including a high-pressure, in-situ dynamic mechanical analyser to study pressure and gas effects on non-metallic materials and other specialised instruments that measure friction and wear on sealing materials.
“Materials scientists at the two labs are the foundation for the experimental studies within this consortium,” said Kevin Simmons, PNNL Senior Research Scientist who serves as H-Mat Co-Lead. “We’re also leveraging our labs’ high-performance computational capabilities to model fundamental hydrogen-materials interactions.”
“The combination of state-of-the-art experimental and computation capabilities at the national labs will provide enhanced understanding of hydrogen gas interactions with polymers and metals.”
Additionally, imaging capabilities and physical metallurgy expertise at Oak Ridge, imaging/testing resources at Savannah River, and chemical analysis capabilities at Argonne will inform the consortium’s research.
H2 View understands the non-proprietary data obtained as part of the H-Mat Consortium is being made publicly available to accelerate national research and development in materials compatibility.