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PNNL co-leads Center for Chemical Hydrogen Storage

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, along with Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, will lead a new national Center for Chemical Hydrogen Storage. The new center is a step toward a "hydrogen economy"—an economy based not on the fossil fuels we use today, but on clean, abundant hydrogen fuels. It is one of three Department of Energy "Centers of Excellence" aimed at enabling use of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles would reduce both pollution and the need for foreign oil. However, researchers must find a way to carry enough hydrogen evaluating in a vehicle to fuel a 300-mile trip.

Photo of PNNL scientist Anna Gutowska adding a catalyst to ammonia borane to release hydrogen

PNNL scientist Anna Gutowska adds a catalyst to ammonia borane to release hydrogen. Scientists at PNNL are exploring using ammonia boron as a hydrogen storage material.

The goal of the center is to design a practical hydrogen storage system that will be cost effective, energy efficient and also be able to refuel or regenerate with hydrogen. Compressed hydrogen gas tanks take up so much space they cannot provide that 300-mile range. The DOE centers will look at other options including metal hydrides, hydrogen stored in carbon materials and chemical storage. DOE selected the LANL/PNNL team to lead a group of industry and university experts who will study solid chemical compounds, which can hold and release hydrogen on demand.

By investigating and chemical compounds on some of the world's fastest computers at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), researchers will learn more about which compounds can efficiently store hydrogen in a solid form. "PNNL's expertise in theoretical and computational chemistry and catalysis will play an important role in the project," said PNNL's project leader Michael Thompson. "Using supercomputing to do initial theoretical investigations, researchers can identify materials that have the highest potential for success before performing physical experiments." EMSL is a DOE User facility located at PNNL.

The center's partners will look at ways to improve the properties of chemical compounds currently known to hold hydrogen, and they hope to discover entirely new materials in which to store hydrogen. The center will be a virtual one, in which researchers will collaborate rather than be located together.

The research team includes scientistsand engineers from both academia and industry including partners from Pennsylvania State University, University of Alabama, University of California at Davis, UCLA, University of Pennsylvania, University of Washington, Millennium Cell, Intematix, U.S. Borax and Rohm and Hass.

The Center for Chemical Hydrogen Storage is part of a $150 million National Hydrogen Storage Project funded by DOE. For more information see the PNNL News Release "Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to co-lead Center for Chemical Hydrogen Storage" at http://www.pnl.gov/news/2004/04-33.htm.

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