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SwRI evaluates durability of hydrogen-powered car fuel tank valves

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Southwest Research Institute is evaluating the durability of hydrogen-powered car fuel tank valves. In the transportation industry, hydrogen is increasingly being studied as a replacement to fossil fuels.

As part of an endeavor with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to assess existing testing requirements for pressurized hydrogen tank valves, this study is being performed.

Government and business demand for hydrogen research has surged in recent years as the sector explores for alternatives to fossil fuel combustion, which contributes to climate change. Hydrogen is being evaluated as a potential fuel source for autos, power generation, and possibly as a substitute for natural gas in households by the SwRI.

“The advances in hydrogen-powered vehicles have led to an increased need for evaluating fuel tank components pressurized with hydrogen gas,” said SwRI Research Engineer Jacqueline Manders. “It’s necessary for our industry partners to ensure that these tanks and the associated components are safe and reliable prior to use on the road.”

At SwRI, Manders spearheaded the creation of a novel test stand that will be used to verify the pressure integrity of valves and flow components with hydrogen gas. With temperature control capabilities ranging from -40 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit, the test stand is intended to achieve pressures as high as 20,000 psi.

“We’re certainly expanding our component test capabilities at SwRI using hydrogen at these pressures and temperatures,” Manders said. “Testing with hydrogen is more challenging than with inert gases such as nitrogen or helium. It is imperative to understand the safety hazards associated with hydrogen to design our test stand and develop testing procedures.”

The present test program’s objective is to analyze and offer input on a set of tests for key closure components on compressed hydrogen storage systems, as prescribed by a global standard.

”There is also tremendous potential to use the test stand for future integrity testing on components for the hydrogen industry, improving component reliability,” Manders said. “With the increased demand for hydrogen research, it’s imperative that we evaluate current test procedures and ensure that these products are being qualified to an acceptable standard.”

The temperature and pressure extremes are intended to test the hydrogen valves beyond their projected functioning range, therefore certifying them for use in vehicles operating in a variety of climates across the world.

Now that the test stand is operational, the Institute can test hydrogen valves for NHTSA and other clients.

Nedim Husomanovic

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