Research Paves the Way for Hydrogen-Based Energy
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AIKEN, S.C. (March 7, 2002) – Approximately 75 experts in fields related to hydrogen storage gathered in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina last week to assess the current status and potential of the various storage technologies and to begin planning a path forward toward a hydrogen economy.
The Savannah River Technology Center (the applied research and development laboratory at the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site) organized the workshop, entitled "Hydrogen Storage: Gateway to Energy Security," to contribute to a national dialogue on strategic direction for hydrogen energy. President Bush has identified hydrogen as a key component of his National Energy Plan.
"This is the first time that the people working across the spectrum of direct hydrogen storage technologies have come together in a focused effort to evaluate and define the state of the art of each technology," said Bill Summers of SRTC. Their analysis showed that considerable progress is being made, but that continued aggressive research and development is needed.
One of the key accomplishments, according to organizers, was to bring together representatives of key organizations working on a variety of storage technologies with applications in both the transportation and stationary markets, to see how their work could complement each other and together advance the possibilities of a hydrogen economy. Attendees included representatives from industry, universities and government agencies.
Hydrogen storage is a critical issue in meeting the Secretary of Energy's goals for the next generation of energy technology, according to Christopher Bordeaux, manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Power Technologies' Hydrogen Program, who addressed the closing day of the workshop.
The workshop was conceived and planned before the Secretary announced the FreedomCAR program in January. FreedomCAR is a public-private partnership to promote the development of hydrogen as the primary fuel for cars and trucks, thereby eliminating the nation's dependence on foreign oil. The interest in that initiative, however, gave a special impetus to the meeting. Richard Moorer, associate deputy assistant secretary for DOE's Office of Transportation Technology, gave a briefing on FreedomCAR during the first day of the workshop. Dr. Shannon Baxter of the California Air Resources Board also gave an overview of their state's existing programs for demonstrating hydrogen-fueled vehicles. Together, these presentations gave workshop participants a framework for the needs and goals of hydrogen storage related to transportation applications.
In addition to transportation, the participants discussed storage technologies needed for applications including portable power sources, stationary power production, military applications, etc. During the opening session, Dr. George Thomas of Sandia National Laboratory provided an overview of hydrogen storage technologies, including past, present and future options.
In a series of working sessions, participants examined the current status and future research-and-development needs of compressed gas, liquid hydrogen, metal hydrides, advanced materials, chemical hydrogen storage and hydrogen storage on carbon.
According to the participants, all of the identified storage technologies will require work on codes and standards, safety verification and public education. Some are in fairly advanced stages of development, only needing efficiency improvements, cost reductions, performance demonstration and/or safety verification to make them viable for selected applications. Compressed and liquid hydrogen storage and conventional metal hydrides were deemed to fall into this category. No current technology, however, meets all of the stringent goals set by the automotive industry for transportation applications.
Other technologies are in the early stages of research and development. While these, which include such possibilities as complex hydrides or carbon nanotubes, carry higher levels of uncertainty at this time, they also carry great potential, and so warrant continued work.
Organizers hope to make this workshop an annual event in order to continue the sharing and collaboration needed to advance critically needed hydrogen storage technology.
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