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U.S. Department of Energy awards UToledo $750,000 to Improve Production of Hydrogen as Clean Fuel

From powering a car to a rocket, hydrogen holds promise as the clean-energy fuel of the future.

The University of Toledo is among 29 universities and organizations across the country to receive a total of $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy for new projects focused on using hydrogen as fuel.

Yan

The goal of the H2@Scale concept is to enable affordable and reliable large-scale hydrogen generation, transport, storage and utilization in the United States and beyond.

NASA’s mission to Mars hinges on the ability to split water — in the form of ice — to produce hydrogen on the moon as fuel to reach the Red Planet.

Hydrogen also could be used on Earth to keep the electrical grid operating to power homes and businesses in the face of extreme weather or cyberattacks.

UToledo was awarded $750,000 to improve water-splitting, the process of breaking apart the water molecule, separating hydrogen from oxygen. The hydrogen, which produces only water when consumed in a fuel cell, can then be used as a clean fuel.

The photovoltaics team, led by Dr. Yanfa Yan, UToledo professor of physics, and Dr. Zhaoning Song, research assistant professor in the UToledo Department of Physics and Astronomy, will develop low-cost photoelectrodes for more efficient photoelectrochemical water splitting using innovative material from their highly successful perovskite solar cells. Perovskites are compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemistry.

The perovskite cells can have high efficiency, collecting more of the sun’s energy and transforming it into the electricity needed to split the water molecule and produce hydrogen.

“Perovskite absorbers have drawn extensive attention due to their demonstrated capability of fabricating solar cells with outstanding conversion efficiencies,” Yan said. “We are excited about this opportunity and eager to apply perovskite absorbers to advance the photoelectrochemical water-splitting technology.”

Funded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy with contribution from DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, the selected projects will advance hydrogen storage and infrastructure technologies and identify innovative concepts for hydrogen production and utilization, including electrical grid resiliency.

“The H2@Scale concept is a critical piece of the country’s comprehensive energy strategy and an enabler of multiple industries in our economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “As an energy carrier, hydrogen has the potential to unite our nation’s domestic energy resources. These selections support the Department of Energy’s mission and advances our commitment to enable economic growth and energy security through the development of more affordable hydrogen technologies.”

“Toledo is at the forefront of the development of innovative technologies that move our country and our world further,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. “I am pleased to see that The University of Toledo has been awarded this valuable $750,000 grant from the Department of Energy to facilitate the University’s important research into hydrogen as clean fuel and to cement our region as a clean energy, research and manufacturing hub.”

The U.S. produces more than 10 million tons of hydrogen, nearly one-seventh of the global supply, primarily for oil refining and fertilizer production.

Hydrogen infrastructure includes more than 1,600 miles of hydrogen pipeline, a growing network of stations, and thousands of tons of storage in underground caverns.

Yan and Song are members of the UToledo Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization.

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