Laboratory Director for Clean Energy:
Dr. Tom Sanders
Among the most critical future
challenges for our nation is the development of abundant, reliable and sustainable energy sources. Providing the energy security fix in America will require an energy mix — a variety of energy
The expertise of the Savannah River National
Laboratory (SRNL), located at the Department of
Energy’s (DOE) Savannah River Site (SRS), is a
valuable resource for leading the nation to new,
clean, safe, secure methods of obtaining energy
sources. In particular, hydrogen, which is central
to SRNL’s history, is proving to have tremendous
potential for providing energy for our vehicles,
homes, and industries. In addition, SRNL has
expertise related to nuclear technology, materials
science, geosciences, microbiology, modeling, atmospheric technologies and
biotechnology, all of which contribute to helping
the nation meet the crucial need for energy
Energy Security Program Mission and Vision
Mission: It is the mission of the SRNL Energy Security Program to provide technology-based solutions for meeting our country's energy security objectives. We will do this by providing applied technologies through multidisciplinary programs of scientific research and applied engineering.
Vision: Within the next 5 to 10 years, SRNL through the Energy Security Program will have developed and demonstrated the technologies necessary to provide continual commercial deployment of a mix of energy resources that are independent, sustainable and economical and widely acceptable to American society.
*For a larger PDF version of this table, please click here (167KB).
Putting Science to Work for Clean Energy:
Since the earliest years of the laboratory, hydrogen experts have supported the Savannah River Site’s work with tritium, the radioactive form of hydrogen used in national defense. That experience has led to the development of technologies for the safe, cost-effective handling of hydrogen – technologies that are equally applicable to hydrogen as an energy source. Today, SRNL’s 80-plus hydrogen researchers (the largest assembly of hydrogen talent in the country) are involved in work related to the most important challenges that must be addressed to make the hydrogen economy a reality: safe, clean production of hydrogen without the use of fossil fuels; light-weight, cost-effective storage of hydrogen; hydrogen separation.
Hydrogen Storage Device
SRNL’s patented hydrogen storage device uses metal hydrides – metal granules that hold hydrogen in an inherently safe, easily-handled solid state, releasing it based on temperature. Safe, compact, reliable, and efficient, this device has been used to power a public transit bus and an industrial fuel cell vehicle. SRNL has long been a leader in the development and use of metal hydrides, with various patents for hydride compositions and their applications. The laboratory is now at the forefront of research into new classes of lighter-weight hydride materials, which may expand the technology’s applicability for powering vehicles.
SRNL, supported by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has developed a novel closed cycle for producing aluminum hydride, also known as alane, that potentially offers a cost-effective method of regenerating the hydrogen-storing material in a way that allows it to repeatedly release and recharge its hydrogen. In this process, the hydride is made via an electrochemical method, and the starting material is regenerated directly with hydrogen.
Regenerative Fuel Cell System for Backup Power Applications
SRNL is working with the Aiken County’s Center for Hydrogen Research (CHR)and industrial partners to develop and demonstrate a regenerative fuel cell system that will have the capability to provide back up power in the event of a power outage. The system is being evaluated for cell tower, uninterruptible power supplies and other small-scale backup power applications.
Hydrogen Storage Engineering Center of Excellence
SRNL leads the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hydrogen Storage Engineering Center of Excellence, a virtual center with partners that include universities, industrial corporations, and federal laboratories. The Center addresses the significant engineering challenges associated with developing lower-pressure, materials-based, hydrogen storage systems for hydrogen fuel cell and internal combustion engine light-duty vehicles.
SRNL is a founding member of a collaboration, the South Carolina Bioenergy Research Collaborative, to demonstrate the economic feasibility of using non-food crops, such as switchgrass, trees and sorghum, to make ethanol. The collaborative is building a biofuels research pilot plant designed to “scale up” new biofuel technologies, a crucial step between small laboratory experiments and full-scale production. Ethanol made from cellulosic feedstocks, such as switchgrass, has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 86 percent compared to gasoline. Biofuels have the added benefit of providing a "carbon sink." As crops grow to produce the feedstocks for making the biofuel, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The SRNL has partnered with the Clemson University Restoration Institute, Santee Cooper, Coastal Carolina University, Second Wind, CMMC-LLC, Center for Hydrogen Research, and the U.S. Coast Guard to make up the South Carolina Consortium for Offshore Wind. This consortium will study South Carolina’s coastal winds to determine the viability of developing the state’s first offshore wind farm.
Advanced Battery Research
In response to the challenge of developing advanced battery chemistries and technologies, SRNL has created an Advanced Battery Materials and Systems Working Group, which brings together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from across several organizations within SRNL to focus on the development of advanced battery materials technology for
- lithium-ion (Li-ion) - rechargeable batteries commonly used in consumer electronics
- metal hydride - rechargeable batteries used in consumer electronics, as well as electric and hybrid vehicles
- lead-acid batteries - commonly used in motor vehicles
Within this framework, the current focus for battery research in SRNL is centered on
- development of advanced materials for Li-ion battery anodes
- development of advanced solid state electrolyte materials for Li-battery technology
- optimization of performance of lead-acid batteries via SRNL technology
- advancement of portable power systems through complex metal hydride materials and systems
Recent successes from the group have resulted in the development of advanced nanostructured anode materials for Li-ion batteries. These free standing nanostructures have resulted in significant energy density increases; a provisional patent for this technology has been approved. Additionally, SRNL has shown that selective doping of some traditional polymer materials can produce significant gains in solid state battery electrolyte performance via enhanced electronic and ionic conductivity.
To support this battery research, SRNL has established the Advanced Battery Research Lab. The battery lab is equipped with inert glove box, sputtering chamber, CVD system, hydrothermal nanomaterials processing , electrochemical instruments, conductivity testers, battery fabrication equipment and a variety of materials characterization capabilities.
Papers by SRNL researchers on a variety of topics are available
through the DOE Information Bridge.