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Hydrogen storage may increase energy resilience

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Institutional and commercial structures suffer a variety of challenges to their continuous operations and resilience, including wildfires, rising sea levels, tornadoes, and earthquakes.

A power outage caused by an unreliable electrical infrastructure is an example of a problem that receives fewer headlines but nonetheless poses a considerable threat to facilities.

As these disruptions rise owing to power surges and harsh weather, energy storage will play a crucial role in guaranteeing a reliable power supply to essential infrastructure, such as hospitals, data centers, and telecommunications networks. Hydrogen offers promise as a solution for energy storage, and scientists are creating materials that can store hydrogen for extended periods of time at cheap cost and with excellent energy efficiency.

With support from the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a team of researchers examined backup power systems based on sponge-like materials known as metal-organic frameworks (MOF) and found that, with further research and development, they could be cost-competitive with other energy storage technologies for backup power.

MOFs are porous crystal structures composed of metal ions in which huge pores can store hydrogen gas. As part of the DOE’s Hydrogen Materials Advanced Research Consortium and in collaboration with experts from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and UC Berkeley, the team analyzed system performance using techno-economic analysis and process modeling.

“MOFs have high surface areas and hydrogen adsorption capacities, where hydrogen molecules can cling to the surface of the MOF cavities,” says Peng Peng, Berkeley Lab postdoctoral researcher and lead author. “Specifically for backup power applications, they have a simple charge/discharge mechanism, allowing the stored hydrogen to be released immediately upon discharge without the use of chemical reactions, which typically require high temperatures.” 

Nedim Husomanovic

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