CSIRO breakthough in hydrogen export technology

Discussion in 'Science' started by RobRoySyd, Aug 8, 2018.

  1. RobRoySyd

    RobRoySyd Member

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    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-...-csiro-game-changer-export-potential/10082514

    https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2017/Membrane-for-hydrogen-fuel-cells

    The biggest problem with using hydrogen as a fuel is its low density. It can be cooled to a liquid but the temperature is so low as to pose serious challenges. An alternative is to use ammonia and this is where the CSIRO's new tech comes in.

    I've always thought converting hydrogen and nitrogen to ammonia required considerable energy and wasn't very efficient. Ammonia itself can be used as fuel but the concept here is after transportation to split the ammonia back into nitrogen and hydrogen. Regardless of my ignorance there does seem to be a lot of interest in what the CSIRO has developed and it does seem to open up the opportunity for Australia to become a major exporter of renewably sourced energy.
     
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  2. HobartTas

    HobartTas Member

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    I can make a couple of points against hydrogen which I looked at about a decade ago.

    (1) Its expensive to make because primarily it was made with electrolysis with expensive platinum catalysts and the only quote I've seen on the internet for commercial electrolysers at that time was one that cost (in USD) 2M$ and used 250K of electricity per year priced at 5 cents per kWh, and at the time was too expensive for solar electricity as you had to keep it going 24/7/365 due to the high capital cost and not something you run only 8 hours a day when the sun shines. Daniel Nocera invented cheaper materials than Platinum and there was an article published in Science on 22-8-2008 here and more general info about the process here and this would have been great for solar power because being cheap you didn't have to run it continuously and so he founded a company called Sun Catalytix to commercialise this and it sunk without trace see his Bio here. I'm not up to speed on electrolysers generally and I believe the solid oxide ones are more efficient but Hydrogen production is still relatively expensive.

    (2) Hydrogen is a really unfriendly element as its so small it will "dissolve" into metal and get in between the larger metal atoms and weaken it, see Hydrogen embrittlement

    (3) For cars there's only 3 ways to store it and that's (a) cryogenically cool it to liquid except that it boils off and therefore you can't keep it in your garage (b) compress it in a carbon fibre cylinder to 50,000 PSI and do you want to be in an accident with this rupturing? do you even want to have it in your car in the first place? (3) dissolve it into a metal hydride and release on demand by gently heating it which would be the safest option except the hydride adds weight which you don't want in a car and its slow to recharge.

    (4) What do you do with it in your car? do you burn it in an ICE engine? well efficiency is about the same as petrol so 35% or do you use a fuel cell which is 50% and both of these options are below the 90% efficiency of a Lithium battery, also bulk storage of electricity as pumped hydro is in to 90%+ range.

    (5) You need new infrastructure for the fuel, with electric cars we already have the electricity grid so we don't need to do anything but with Hydrogen you have to replicate this all over again. It might work with limited distribution points for trucks and buses but I can't see it being rolled out for cars and even if it is I still won't buy one as I'll go electric first which will be much better by then.

    (6) ANU has done a lot of work on this topic H2+N2 > Ammonia > H2+N2 over the past two decades or so but essentially this has been technology that has gone nowhere also.

    The only newsworthy point about this is the membrane technology and the significance of this is that when you make Hydrogen by splitting distilled water it gives you pure Hydrogen whereas Hydrogen made from fossil fuels using Steam reforming is contaminated and hence "dirty", dirty hydrogen fouls up fuel cells in pretty short order so only clean hydrogen can be used so if this membrane only lets through Hydrogen its newsworthy, whether its "useful" due to the points I've made above I don't really think so.

    Anyway if anyone this "Hydrogen" is going to be the next big thing then your going to have to post counter arguments to all I've stated here before you have a hope of convincing me. As far as I'm concerned Hydrogen fuel for cars is DOA as far as I'm concerned, but that's not to say that for whatever reason it may still get put into production and rolled out in a big way if the decision gets made to do so. Comments welcome!

    Cheers
     
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  3. adamsleath

    adamsleath Member

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    amazing what can be done if you try.

    QATAR solved the 'economics' of liquefaction.
     
  4. OP
    OP
    RobRoySyd

    RobRoySyd Member

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    I was already aware of all the issues with hydrogen, I wonder how many realise the problem with steel and rusting isn't entirely due to the oxidation, it's due to the hydrogen getting into the iron.

    I agree for passenger vehicles and light planes batteries are to date the best option for energy storage. For trucks and commercial aircraft the physics change.

    For sure we have existing infrastructure to distribute electricity. We also have one for gas. The issue is exporting either. Australia has the landmass and the sunlight to meet all humanity's energy needs although we'd probably want to split that with Northern Africa. The challenge is how to transport that energy. An undersea superconducting cable to our north west doesn't seem a grand idea nor would a pipeline given the geologically active areas to be crossed. Shipping the energy as ammonia seems more viable to me. Ammonia does have some issues too (embrittlement) but they're manageable.

    Of some relevance: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378382009000241
     
  5. chainbolt

    chainbolt Member

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    That could be indeed a break through for FV/HEV. If it is possible to commercialize the technology into a feasible business model.

    To power passenger cars and commercial vehicles by fuel cells is clearly and without any doubt more efficient than EV. Some manufacturers (Toyota) are selling such cars already but the sold number is very small due the problems with the hydrogen infrastructure. It seems like this technology could solve this.
     

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