The Tesla Effect is Reaching Critical Mass – Could it Really Put Big Oil on the Defensive … Really?


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*** This article appeared in TESLARATI and was re-posted in Fully Charged. We have Followed and Written a LOT about the ‘Coming EV Revolution’, about Advances in Charging Stations and Battery Technology. Most recently we posted an article ‘What If Green Energy Isn’t the Future?’

So maybe … just maybe, ‘Green Energy’ might NOT be able to meet the current Projected Carbon Fuel Replacement Schedule …. However, could the EV/ Hydrogen Fuel Cell Revolution replace forever the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE)?  (Hint: We Think So!)

Let Us Know What YOU think! Leave us your thoughts and comments. (below)

Headed by vehicles like the Tesla Model 3, the electric car revolution is showing no signs of stopping. The auto landscape today is very different from what it was years ago. Before, only Tesla and a few automakers were pushing electric cars, and the Model S was proving to the industry that EVs could be objectively better than internal combustion vehicles. Today, practically every automaker has plans to release electric cars. EV startup Bollinger Motors CEO Robert Bollinger summed it up best: “If you want to start a (car company) now, it has to be electric.”

CATALYSTS FOR A TRANSITION

A critical difference between then and now is that veteran automakers today are coming up with decent electric vehicles. No longer were EVs glorified golf carts and compliance cars; today’s electric vehicles are just as attractive, sleek, and powerful than their internal combustion peers. The auto industry has warmed up to electric vehicles as well. The Jaguar I-PACE has been collecting awards left and right since its release, and more recently, the Kia Niro EV was dubbed by Popular Mechanics as the recipient of its Car of the Year award.

A survey by CarGurus earlier this year revealed that 34% of car buyers are open to purchasing an electric car within the next ten years. A survey among young people in the UK last year revealed even more encouraging results, with 50% of respondents stating that they want electric cars. Amidst the disruption being brought about by the Tesla Model 3, which has all but dominated EV sales since production ramped last year, experienced automakers have responded in kind. Volkswagen recently debuted the ID.3, Audi has the e-tron, Hyundai has the Kona EV, and Mercedes-Benz has the EQC. Even Porsche, a low-volume car manufacturer, is attracting the high-end legacy market with the Taycan.

At this point, it appears that Tesla’s mission is going well underway. With the market now open to the idea of electric vehicles, there is an excellent chance that EV adoption will only increase from this point on.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the Tesla Semi. (Credit: Tesla)

BIG OIL FEELS A CHANGE IN THE WIND

Passenger cars are the No.1 source of demand for oil, and with the potential emergence of a transportation industry whose life and death does not rely on a gas pump, Big Oil could soon find itself on the defensive. Depending on how quickly the auto industry could shift entirely to sustainable transportation and how seriously governments handle issues like climate change, “peak oil” could happen a couple of decades or a few years from now. This could adversely affect investors in the oil industry, who might be at risk of losing their investments if peak oil happens faster than expected. JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade, described this potential scenario in a statement to CNN. “Look at what happened to the coal industry. You have to keep that in the back of your mind and be vigilant. It can turn very, very quickly,” the strategist said.

Paul Sankey of Mizuho Securities previously mentioned that a “Tesla Effect” is starting to be felt in the oil markets. According to the analyst, the Tesla Effect is an increasingly prevalent concept today which states that while the 20th century was driven by oil, the 21st century will be driven by electricity. This, together with the growing movements against climate change today, does not bode well for the oil industry. Adam White, an equity strategist at SunTrust Advisory, stated that investors might not be looking at the oil market with optimism anymore. “A lot of damage has already been done. People are jaded towards the industry,” he said.

Prospective oil developments have been fraudulently overvalued, as claimed by a Complaint filed against Exxon. (Photo: Pixabay)

An analysis from Barclays points to the world’s reliance on oil peaking somewhere between 2030 and 2035, provided that countries keep to their low-carbon goals. The investment bank also noted that peak oil could happen as early as 2025 if more aggressive climate change initiatives are adopted on a wider scale. This all but makes investments in oil stocks very risky in the 2020s, and this risk gets amplified if electric vehicles become more mainstream. Sverre Alvik of research firm DNV GL described this concern. “By 2030, oil shareholders will feel the impact. Electric vehicles are likely to cause light vehicle oil demand to plunge by nearly 50% by 2040,” Alvik said.

Some of today’s prolific oil producers appear to be making the necessary preparations for peak oil’s inevitable decline. Amidst pressures from shareholders, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Total have expanded their operations into solar, wind, and electric charging, seemingly as a means to future-proof themselves. On the flipside, there are also big oil players that are ramping their activities. Earlier this month, financial titan Warren Buffet, who recently expressed his skepticism towards Elon Musk’s plan of introducing an insurance service for Tesla’s electric cars, committed $10 billion to Occidental Petroleum, one of the largest oil and gas exploration companies in the United States.

A POINT OF NO RETURN

The auto industry is now at a point where a real transition towards electrification is happening. Tesla’s efforts over the years, from the original Roadster to the Model 3, have played a huge part in this transition. Tesla, as well as its CEO, Elon Musk, have awakened the public’s eye about the viability of electric cars, while showing the auto industry that there is a demand for good, well-designed EVs. Nevertheless, Tesla still has a long journey ahead of it, as the company ramps its activities in the energy storage sector. If Tesla Energy mobilizes and becomes as disruptive as the company’s electric car division, it would deal yet another blow to the oil industry.

At this point, it is pertinent for veteran automakers that have released their own electric cars to ensure that they do not stop. Legacy car makers had long talked the talk when it came to electric vehicles, but today, it is time to walk the walk. German automaker Volkswagen could be a big player in this transition, as hinted at by the reception of its all-electric car, the ID.3. The ID.3 launch was successful, with Volkswagen getting 10,000 preorders for the vehicle in just 24 hours. The German carmaker should see this as writing on the wall: the demand for EVs is there.

The Volkswagen ID.3. (Credit: Volkswagen)

The Volkswagen ID.3 is not as quick or sleek as a Tesla Model 3, nor does it last as long on the road between charges. But considering its price point and its badge, it does not have to be. Volkswagen states that the ID.3 will be priced below 40,000 euros ($45,000) in Germany, which should make it attainable for car buyers in the country.  If done right, the ID.3 could be the second coming of the Beetle, ultimately becoming a car that redeems the company from the stigma of the Dieselgate scandal. Thus, it would be a great shame if Volkswagen drops the ball on the ID.3.

Tesla will likely remain a divisive company for years to come; Elon Musk, even more so. Nevertheless, Tesla and what it stands for is slowly becoming an idea, one that connotes hope for something better and cleaner for the future. And if history’s victories and tragedies are any indication, once something becomes an idea, an intangible concept, it becomes impossible to kill.

Watch and Learn More

Mobility Disruption | Tony Seba

Tony Seba, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Author and Thought Leader, Lecturer at Stanford University, Keynote The reinvention and connection between infrastructure and mobility will fundamentally disrupt the clean transport model.

Nano-Enabled Batteries and Super Capacitors

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New Technology from U Mass Lowell may hold key to ‘Mainstream’ Fuel Cell EV’s ~ “May be the ‘boost’ that Fuel Cell EV’s Need“


While EVs have come a long way — even Ford is making electric trucks — they’re still a far cry from perfect. One of the biggest complaints is that the batteries need to be plugged in and recharged, and even when they’re charged, they have a limited range. Fuel cell electric vehicles offer an alternative.

Their “battery” — actually a hydrogen/oxygen fuel cell — can be replenished with hydrogen gas. The biggest problem to-date has been that producing hydrogen isn’t an environmentally friendly process. We would also need the infrastructure to refuel with hydrogen. But, new technology from UMass Lowell could remove those barriers.

Researchers there have created a way to produce hydrogen on demand using water, carbon dioxide and cobalt. Theoretically, that would go directly into a fuel cell, where it would mix with oxygen to generate electricity and water. The electricity would then power the EV’s motor, rechargeable battery and headlights.

According to UMass Lowell, the hydrogen produced is 95 percent pure, and vehicles would not need to be refueled at a filling station. Instead, owners would replace canisters of the cobalt metal which would fuel the hydrogen generator.

Because the technology can produce hydrogen at low temperatures and pressures and because excess isn’t stored in the vehicle, it minimizes the risk of fire or explosion. While this isn’t a practical application yet, it could help make FCEVs a viable option.

In a statement from UMass Lowell’s Chemistry Department Chairman Professor David Ryan below said that vehicles would not be refueled at a fueling station.

The system that we have devised would not require the vehicle to be refueled at a hydrogen filling station.

Our technology would use canisters of the cobalt metal as the fuel to operate the hydrogen generator.

The canisters would be swapped out when expended. It’s really too early to tell, but the goal is typically to be able to travel up to 350 to 400 miles for most vehicles before “refueling.”

Johns Hopkins University ~ More flexible Nanomaterials can make Fuel Cell Cars Cheaper


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A new method of increasing the reactivity of ultrathin nanosheets, just a few atoms thick, can someday make fuel cells for hydrogen cars cheaper, finds a new Johns Hopkins study.

Johns Hopkins U goldilocksthA platinum-like metal only five atomic layers thick is “just right” for optimizing the performance of a fuel cell electrode. Credit: Johns Hopkins University image/Lei Wang

 

A report of the findings, to be published Feb. 22 in Science, offers promise towards faster, cheaper production of electrical power using fuel cells, but also of bulk chemicals and materials such as hydrogen.

“Every material experiences surface strain due to the breakdown of the material’s crystal symmetry at the . We discovered a way to make these crystals ultrathin, thereby decreasing the distance between atoms and increasing the material’s reactivity,” says Chao Wang, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at The Johns Hopkins University, and one of the study’s corresponding authors.

Strain is, in short, the deformation of any material. For example, when a piece of paper is bent, it is effectively disrupted at the smallest, atomic level; the intricate lattices that hold the paper together are forever changed.

In this study, Wang and colleagues manipulated the strain effect, or distance between atoms, causing the material to change dramatically. By making those lattices incredibly thin, roughly a million times thinner than a strand of human hair, the material becomes much easier to manipulate just like how one piece of paper is easier to bend than a thicker stack of paper.

“We’re essentially using force to tune the properties of thin metal sheets that make up electrocatalysts, which are part of the electrodes of fuel cells,” says Jeffrey Greeley, professor of chemical engineering at Purdue and another one of the paper’s corresponding authors. “The ultimate goal is to test this method on a variety of metals.”

“By tuning the ‘ thinness, we were able to create more strain, which changes the material’s properties, including how molecules are held together. This means you have more freedom to accelerate the reaction you want on the material’s surface,” explains Wang.

One example of how optimizing reactions can be useful in application is increasing the activity of catalysts used for fuel cell cars. While fuel cells represent a promising technology toward emission-free electrical vehicles, the challenge lies in the expense associated with the precious  such as platinum and palladium, limiting its viability to the vast majority of consumers. A more active catalyst for the fuel cells can reduce cost and clear the way for widespread adoption of green, renewable energy.

More flexible nanomaterials can make fuel cell cars cheaper
Chao Wang, a Johns Hopkins assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, in his lab with postdoctoral fellow Lei Wang, another author of the related research article. Credit: Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University

Wang and colleagues estimate that their new method can increase catalyst activity by 10 to 20 times, using 90 percent less of precious metals than what is currently required to power a .

“We hope that our findings can someday aid in the production of cheaper, more efficient fuel cells to make environmentally-friendly cars more accessible for everybody,” says Wang.

 Explore further: Gilding technique inspired by ancient Egyptians may spark better fuel cells for tomorrow’s electric cars

More information: L. Wang el al., “Tunable intrinsic strain in two-dimensional transition metal electrocatalysts,” Science (2019). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126/science.aat8051

 

U of Manchester – Nobel-prize Winning Chemistry for Clean Energy Breakthrough used to Reduce the cost of Fuel Cells used in Renewable Energy Vehicles – Reduce harmful emissions from ICE’s


nobelenergynanoparticlesCredit: CC0 Public Domain

Scientists have used a Nobel-prize winning chemistry technique on a mixture of metals to potentially reduce the cost of fuel cells used in electric cars and reduce harmful emissions from conventional vehicles.

The researchers have translated a biological , which won the 2017 Nobel Chemistry Prize, to reveal atomic scale chemistry in metal . These materials are one of the most effective catalysts for energy converting systems such as fuel cells. It is the first time this technique has been for this kind of research.

The particles have a complex star-shaped geometry and this new work shows that the edges and corners can have different chemistries which can now be tuned to reduce the cost of batteries and catalytic convertors.

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Joachim Frank, Richard Henderson and Jacques Dubochet for their role in pioneering the technique of single particle reconstruction. This electron microscopy technique has revealed the structures of a huge number of viruses and proteins but is not usually used for metals.

Now, a team at the University of Manchester, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Oxford and Macquarie University, have built upon the Nobel Prize winning technique to produce three dimensional elemental maps of metallic nanoparticles consisting of just a few thousand atoms.

Published in the journal Nano Letters, their research demonstrates that it is possible to map different elements at the nanometre scale in three dimensions, circumventing damage to the particles being studied.

Metal nanoparticles are the primary component in many catalysts, such as those used to convert toxic gases in car exhausts. Their effectiveness is highly dependent on their structure and chemistry, but because of their incredibly small structure,  are required in order to provide image them. However, most imaging is limited to 2-D projections.

“We have been investigating the use of tomography in the electron microscope to map elemental distributions in three dimensions for some time,” said Professor Sarah Haigh, from the School of Materials, University of Manchester. “We usually rotate the particle and take images from all directions, like a CT scan in a hospital, but these particles were damaging too quickly to enable a 3-D image to be built up. Biologists use a different approach for 3-D imaging and we decided to explore whether this could be used together with spectroscopic techniques to map the different elements inside the nanoparticles.”

“Like ‘single particle reconstruction’ the technique works by imaging many particles and assuming that they are all identical in structure, but arranged at different orientations relative to the electron beam. The images are then fed in to a computer algorithm which outputs a three dimensional reconstruction.”

In the present study the new 3-D chemical imaging method has been used to investigate platinum-nickel (Pt-Ni) metal nanoparticles.

Lead author, Yi-Chi Wang, also from the School of Materials, added: “Platinum based nanoparticles are one of the most effective and widely used catalytic materials in applications such as fuel cells and batteries. Our new insights about the 3-D local chemical distribution could help researchers to design better catalysts that are low-cost and high-efficiency.”

“We are aiming to automate our 3-D chemical reconstruction workflow in the future”, added author Dr. Thomas Slater.”We hope it can provide a fast and reliable method of imaging nanoparticle populations which is urgently needed to speed up optimisation of nanoparticle synthesis for wide ranging applications including biomedical sensing, light emitting diodes, and solar cells.”

 Explore further: Video: The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Cryo-electron microscopy explained

More information: Yi-Chi Wang et al. Imaging Three-Dimensional Elemental Inhomogeneity in Pt–Ni Nanoparticles Using Spectroscopic Single Particle Reconstruction, Nano Letters (2019). DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.8b03768

 

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity


This is a schematic illustration of Hybrid Na-CO2 System and its reaction mechanism. UNIST

Scientists from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.

The inspiration came from the fact that much of the carbon dioxide produced by humans is absorbed by the oceans, where it raises the level of acidity in the water.

Researchers used this concept to “melt” carbon dioxide in water in order to induce an electrochemical reaction. When acidity rises, the number of protons increases, and these protons attract electrons at a high rate. This can be used to create a battery system where electricity is produced by removing carbon dioxide.

The elements of the battery system are similar to a fuel cell, and include a cathode (sodium metal), a separator (NASICON), and an anode (catalyst). In this case, the catalysts are contained in the water and are connected to the cathode through a lead wire. The reaction begins when carbon dioxide is injected into the water and begins to break down into electricity and hydrogen. Not only is the electricity generated obviously useful, but the produced hydrogen could be used to fuel vehicles as well. The current efficiency of the system is up to 50 percent of the carbon dioxide being converted, which is impressive, although the system only operates on a small scale.

“Carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) technologies have recently received a great deal of attention for providing a pathway in dealing with global climate change,” Professor Guntae Kim of the School of Energy and Chemical Engineering at UNIST said in a statement. “The key to that technology is the easy conversion of chemically stable CO2 molecules to other materials. Our new system has solved this problem with [the] CO2 dissolution mechanism.”

Brookhaven National Laboratory – Searching for More Cost Efficient Catalysts for Hydrogen Fuel Cells – Illuminating Nanoparticle Growth With X-Rays


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Brookhaven Lab scientists Mingyuan Ge, Iradwikanari Waluyo, and Adrian Hunt are pictured left to right at the IOS beamline, where they studied the growth pathway of an efficient catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells. Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Hydrogen fuel cells are a promising technology for producing clean and renewable energy, but the cost and activity of their cathode materials is a major challenge for commercialization. Many fuel cells require expensive platinum-based catalysts–substances that initiate and speed up chemical reactions–to help convert renewable fuels into electrical energy. To make hydrogen fuel cells commercially viable, scientists are searching for more affordable catalysts that provide the same efficiency as pure platinum.

“Like a battery, hydrogen fuel cells convert stored chemical energy into electricity. The difference is that you’re using a replenishable fuel so, in principle, that ‘battery’ would last forever,” said Adrian Hunt, a scientist at the National Synchrotron Light Source II(NSLS-II), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. “Finding a cheap and effective catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells is basically the holy grail for making this technology more feasible.”

Taking part in this worldwide search for fuel cell cathode materials, researchers at the University of Akron developed a new method of synthesizing catalysts from a combination of metals–platinum and nickel–that form octahedral (eight-sided) shaped nanoparticles. While scientists have identified this catalyst as one of the most efficient replacements for pure platinum, they have not fully understood why it grows in an octahedral shape. To better understand the growth process, the researchers at the University of Akron collaborated with multiple institutions, including Brookhaven and its NSLS-II.

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Schematic diagram of the oxygen reduction reaction (reduction of O2 into H2O) on the Pt(110) surface of the PtPb/Pt nanoplates, with purple representing Pt atoms and orange representing Pb atoms. Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

“Understanding how the faceted catalyst is formed plays a key role in establishing its structure-property correlation and designing a better catalyst,” said Zhenmeng Peng, principal investigator of the catalysis lab at the University of Akron. “The growth process case for the platinum-nickel system is quite sophisticated, so we collaborated with several experienced groups to address the challenges. The cutting-edge techniques at Brookhaven National Lab were of great help to study this research topic.”

Using the ultrabright x-rays at NSLS-II and the advanced capabilities of NSLS-II’s In situ and Operando Soft X-ray Spectroscopy (IOS) beamline, the researchers revealed the chemical characterization of the catalyst’s growth pathway in real time. Their findings are published in Nature Communications.

“We used a research technique called ambient-pressure x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (AP-XPS) to study the surface composition and chemical state of the metals in the nanoparticles during the growth reaction,” said Iradwikanari Waluyo, lead scientist at IOS and a co-corresponding author of the research paper. “In this technique, we direct x-rays at a sample, which causes electrons to be released. By analyzing the energy of these electrons, we are able to distinguish the chemical elements in the sample, as well as their chemical and oxidation states.”

Hunt, who is also an author on the paper, added, “It is similar to the way sunlight interacts with our clothing. Sunlight is roughly yellow, but once it hits a person’s shirt, you can tell whether the shirt is blue, red, or green.”

Rather than colors, the scientists were identifying chemical information on the surface of the catalyst and comparing it to its interior. They discovered that, during the growth reaction, metallic platinum forms first and becomes the core of the nanoparticles. Then, when the reaction reaches a slightly higher temperature, platinum helps form metallic nickel, which later segregates to the surface of the nanoparticle. In the final stages of growth, the surface becomes roughly an equal mixture of the two metals. This interesting synergistic effect between platinum and nickel plays a significant role in the development of the nanoparticle’s octahedral shape, as well as its reactivity.

“The nice thing about these findings is that nickel is a cheap material, whereas platinum is expensive,” Hunt said. “So, if the nickel on the surface of the nanoparticle is catalyzing the reaction, and these nanoparticles are still more active than platinum by itself, then hopefully, with more research, we can figure out the minimum amount of platinum to add and still get the high activity, creating a more cost-effective catalyst.”

The findings depended on the advanced capabilities of IOS, where the researchers were able to run the experiments at gas pressures higher than what is usually possible in conventional XPS experiments.

“At IOS, we were able to follow changes in the composition and chemical state of the nanoparticles in real time during the real growth conditions,” said Waluyo.

Additional x-ray and electron imaging studies completed at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory–another DOE Office of Science User Facility–and University of California-Irvine, respectively, complemented the work at NSLS-II.

“This fundamental work highlights the significant role of segregated nickel in forming the octahedral-shaped catalyst. We have achieved more insight into shape control of catalyst nanoparticles,” Peng said. “Our next step is to study catalytic properties of the faceted nanoparticles to understand the structure-property correlation.”

NREL Update: How Fast Can You Pump Hydrogen For An EV? NREL, Mercedes and GM Plan To Find Out


Pumping hydrogen for fuel cell-powered EVs is a bit trickier than plugging into an electric recharging station.

The pressure in HFEV tanks can get up into the 10,000 psi range, so hoses, fittings, gauges, and other fuel station gear all has to perform well under such pressure.

Even so, the optimal speed for pumping hydrogen for an HFEV at a station is not yet well defined at the moment, given the need for continuing station tank resupply, and for the fresh generation of hydrogen used to fill the tanks.

To help determine the optimal operational flow and requirements for HFEV stations, the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in Golden, CO, in a partnership with Mercedes-Benz and General Motors, is testing hydrogen filling at the lab’s Hydrogen Infrastructure Testing and Research Facility (HITRF), according to a facility spokesperson.

“It’s a cradle to grave investigation,” said the NREL guide who recently led a tour of the facility where new carbon fiber-reinforced tanks were on display.

The HITRF integrates commercial and test equipment in a system to mimic a hydrogen station, and it is the only facility in the national lab complex capable of fueling to the SAE J2601 standard — a fast-fueling protocol that dispenses 70 megapascals (MPa) of hydrogen at -40°C to the vehicle with a 3–5 minute fueling time, NREL’s program description says. A megapascal is about 145 psi. The SAE standard is “Fueling Protocols for Light Duty Gaseous Hydrogen Surface Vehicles.”

NREL and its partners are experimenting at the HITRF to help reduce the cost and installation time for a new hydrogen fueling station, to improve the stations’ availability and reliability, and to ensure the success of future hydrogen infrastructure deployment. One accident would attract far too much press attention.

The HITRF, with 340 kg of hydrogen storage on site, is the first facility of its kind in Colorado and serves as a proving ground for current generation component, system, and control testing, as well as perform testing for next-generation technology and controls.

NREL is also tapping federal funding for the HITRF, and helping US Department of Energy to test the hydrogen station equipment performance, or HySTEP devices as part of the US Department of Energy’s H2FIRST project.

The cost of each commercial hydrogen filling station could be high. One indicator of cost is that the Japanese government has invested $378 million to develop hydrogen infrastructure, of which about $1 million will be spent on each hydrogen station, according to a recent market analysis by Frost & Sullivan. “The cost of implementing a variable hydrogen pressure nozzle fuel station for storage and generation…has been the primary choking point in infrastructure expansion,” they say.

Other companies and entities involved in HFEV station development partnerships include the Hydrogen Energy Association, Seven-Eleven Japan Co. Ltd, HyFIVE, Linde, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, Ballard, and UK H2 Mobility, the analysts say.

The market for HFEVs, or fuel cell EVs, as they refer to them, is bright according to the analysts, who say about two million fuel cell vehicles are expected to be on the roads globally by 2030.

“The global market for FCEVs is estimated to reach about 583,360 units (per year) by 2030, with Asia Pacific (APAC) countries such as Japan and South Korea dominating the market with 218,651 and 80,440 units, respectively. FCEV markets in Europe and North America are projected to reach 117,000 units and 118,847 units, respectively, by 2030,” they say.

DOE targets having about 500,000 fuel cell cars on the road by 2030, Frost & Sullivan says.

Apart from its support of HFEV station development, DOE is supporting research that is working to reduce the price of an 80 kW fuel cell stack system to as little as $30. Along with reductions in the price of fuel cell stacks, efforts are also ongoing to lower the cost of hydrogen production to less than $2/kg, using the proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis method, the analysts point out.

Over the next decade, an estimated $10 billion will be invested globally in developing hydrogen technology and infrastructure by a group of private investor companies in conjunction with Toyota, Daimler and BMW, Frost & Sullivan reckon.

The Californian government has approved an expenditure of $20 million annually on hydrogen station deployments with private companies, which had already invested over $20 million at the end of 2017, the analysts say.

Energy Storage Technologies vie for Investment and Market Share – “And the Winners Are” …


One of the conveniences that makes fossil fuels hard to phase out is the relative ease of storing them, something that many of the talks at Advanced Energy Materials 2018 aimed to tackle as they laid out some of the advances in alternatives for energy storage.

Max Lu during the inaugural address at AEM 2018

“Energy is the biggest business in the world,” Max Lu, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey, told attendees of Advanced Energy Materials 2018 at Surrey University earlier this month. But as

Lu, who has held numerous positions on senior academic boards and government councils, pointed out, the shear scale of the business means it takes time for one technology to replace another.

“Even if solar power were now cheaper than fossil fuel, it would be another 30 years before it replaced fossil fuel,” said Lu. And for any alternative technology to replace fossil fuels, some means of storing it is crucial.

Batteries beyond lithium ion cells

Lithium ion batteries have become ubiquitous for powering small portable devices.

But as Daniel ShuPing Lau, professor and head at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and director of the University Research Facility in Materials pointed out, lithium is rare and high-cost, prompting the search for alternatives.

He described work on sodium ion batteries, where one of the key challenges has been the MnO2 electrode commonly used, which is prone to acid attack and disproportionation redox reactions.

Lau described work by his group and colleagues to get around the electrode stability issues using environmentally friendly K-birnessite MnO2 (K0.3MnO2) nanosheets, which they can inkjet print on paper as well as steel.

Their sodium ion batteries challenge the state of the art for energy storage devices with a working voltage of 2.5 V, maximum energy and power densities of 587 W h kgcathode−1 and 75 kW kgcathode−1, respectively, and a 99.5% capacity retention for 500 cycles at 1 A g−1.

Metal air batteries are another alternative to lithium-ion batteries, and Tan Wai Kan from Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan described the potential of using a carbon paper decorated with Fe2O3 nanoparticles in a metal air battery.

They increase the surface area of the electrode with a mesh structure to improve the efficiency, while using solid electrolyte KOHZrO2 instead of a liquid helped mitigate against the stability risks of hydrogen evolution for greater reliability and efficiency.

A winning write off for pseudosupercapacitors

Other challenges aside, when it comes to stability, supercapacitors leave most batteries far behind.

Because there is no mass movement, just charge, they tend to stay stable for not just hundreds but hundreds of thousands of cycles

They are already in use in the Shanghai bus system and the emergency doors on some aircraft as Robert Slade emeritus professor of inorganic and materials chemistry at the University of Surrey pointed out.

He described work on “pseudocapacitance”, a term popularised in the 1980s and 1990s to to describe a charge storage process that is by nature faradaic – that is, charge transport through redox processes – but where aspects of the behaviour is capacitive.

MnO2 is well known to impart pseudocapacitance in alkaline solutions but Slade and his colleagues focused on MoO3.

Although MnO3 is a lousy conductor, it accepts protons in acids to form HMoO, and exploiting the additional surface area of nanostructures further helps give access to the pseudocapacitance, so that the team were able to demonstrate a charge-discharge rate of 20 A g-1 for over 10,000 cycles.

This is competitive with MnO2 alkaline systems. “So don’t write off materials that other people have written off, such as MoO3, because a bit of “chemical trickery” can make them useful,” he concluded.

Down but not out for solid oxide fuel cells

But do we gain from the proliferation of so many different alternatives to fossil fuels? According to John Zhu, professor in the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland in Australia, “yes.”

For clean energy we need more than one solution,” was his response when queried on the point after his talk.

In particular he had a number of virtues to espouse with respect to solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), which had been the topic of his own presentation.

Besides the advantage of potential 24-7 operation, SOFCs generate the energy they store. As Zhu pointed out, “With a battery energy the source may still be dirty – so you are just moving the pollution from a high population density area to a low one.”

In contrast, an SOFC plant generates electricity directly from oxidizing a fuel, while at the same time it halves the CO2 emission of a coal-based counterpart, and achieves an efficiency of more than 60%.

If combined with hot water generation more than 80% efficiency is possible, which is double the efficiency of a conventional coal plant. All this is achieved with cheap materials as no noble metals are needed.

Too good to be true? It seemed so at one point as promising corporate ventures plummeted, one example being Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd, which was formed in 1992 by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and a consortium of energy and industrial companies.

After becoming ASX listed in 2004, and opening production facilities in Australia and Germany, it eventually filed voluntary bankruptcy in 2015.

So “Are SOFCs going to die?” asked Zhu.

So long as funding is the lifeline of research apparently not, with the field continuing to attract investment from the US Department of Energy – including $6million for Fuel Cell Energy Inc. Share prices for GE Global Research and Bloom Energy have also doubled in the two months since July 2018, but Zhu highlights challenges that remain.

At €25,000 to install a 2 kW system he suggests that cost is not the issue so much as durability. While an SOFC plant’s lifetime should exceed 10 years, most don’t largely due to the high operating temperatures of 800–1000 °C, which lead to thermal degradation and seal failure. Lower operating temperatures would also allow faster start up and the use of cheaper materials.

The limiting factor for reducing temperatures is the cathode material, as its resistance is too high in cooler conditions. Possible alternative cathode materials do exist and include – 3D heterostructured electrodes La3MiO4 decorated Ba0.5Sr0.3Ce0.8Fe0.3O3 (BSCF with LN shell).

Photocatalysts all wrapped up

Other routes for energy on demand have looked at water splitting and CO2 reduction.

As Lu pointed out in his opening remarks, the success of these approaches hinge on engineering better catalysts, and here Somnath Roy from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, in India, had some progress to report.

“TiO2 is to catalysis what silicon is to microelectronics,” he told attendees of his talk during the graphene energy materials session. However the photocatalytic activity of TiO2 peaks in the UV, and there have been many efforts to shift this closer to the visible as a result.

Building on previous work with composites of graphene and TiO2 he and his colleagues developed a process to produce well separated (to allow reaction space) TiO2 nanotubes wrapped in graphene.

Although they did not notice a wavelength shift in the peak catalytic activity to the visible due to the graphene, the catalysis did improve due to the effect on hole and electron transport.

There was no shortage of ideas at AEM 2018, but as Lu told attendees,

“Ultimately uptake does not depend on the best technology but the best return on investment.”

Speaking to Physics World  he added,

“The route to market for any energy materials will require systematic assessment of the technical advantages, market demand and a number of iterations of property-performance-system optimization, and open innovation and collaboration will be the name of the game for successful translation of materials to product or processes.”

Whatever technologies do eventually stick, time is of the essence. Most estimates place the tipping point for catastrophic global warming at 2050.

Allowing 30 years for the infrastructure overhaul that could allow alternative energies to totally replace fossil fuels leaves little more than a year for those technologies to pitch “the best return on investment”.

Little wonder advanced energy materials research is teaming.

Read More: Learn About:

Tenka Energy, Inc. Building Ultra-Thin Energy Dense SuperCaps and NexGen Nano-Enabled Pouch & Cylindrical Batteries – Energy Storage Made Small and POWERFUL!

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All-in-one light-driven water splitting with a novel nanocatalyst (photocatalytic splitting of H2O molecules)


solar water splitting c3ee42519c-ga-1024x477

Solar-powered water splitting is a promising means of generating clean and storable energy. A novel catalyst based on semiconductor nanoparticles has now been shown to facilitate all the reactions needed for “artificial photosynthesis”.

In the light of global climate change, there is an urgent need to develop efficient ways of obtaining and storing power from renewable energy sources. The photocatalytic splitting of water into hydrogen fuel and oxygen provides a particularly attractive approach in this context. However, efficient implementation of this process, which mimics biological photosynthesis, is technically very challenging, since it involves a combination of processes that can interfere with each other.
Now, LMU physicists led by Dr. Jacek Stolarczyk and Professor Jochen Feldmann, in collaboration with chemists at the University of Würzburg led by Professor Frank Würthner, have succeeded in demonstrating the complete splitting of water with the help of an all-in-one catalytic system for the first time.
Their new study appears in the journal Nature Energy (“All-in-one visible-light-driven water splitting by combining nanoparticulate and molecular co-catalysts on CdS nanorods”).
solar-powered-water-splitting-device-incorporating-two-separateTechnical methods for the photocatalytic splitting of water molecules use synthetic components to mimic the complex processes that take place during natural photosynthesis.
In such systems, semiconductor nanoparticles that absorb light quanta (photons) can, in principle, serve as the photocatalysts. Absorption of a photon generates a negatively charged particle (an electron) and a positively charged species known as a ‘hole’, and the two must be spatially separated so that a water molecule can be reduced to hydrogen by the electron and oxidized by the hole to form oxygen.
“If one only wants to generate hydrogen gas from water, the holes are usually removed rapidly by adding sacrificial chemical reagents,” says Stolarczyk. “But to achieve complete water splitting, the holes must be retained in the system to drive the slow process of water oxidation.”
The problem lies in enabling the two half-reactions to take place simultaneously on a single particle – while ensuring that the oppositely charged species do not recombine. In addition, many semiconductors can be oxidized themselves, and thereby destroyed, by the positively charged holes.

Nanorods with spatially separated reaction sites

“We solved the problem by using nanorods made of the semiconducting material cadmium sulfate, and spatially separated the areas on which the oxidation and reduction reactions occurred on these nanocrystals,” Stolarczyk explains.
The researchers decorated the tips of the nanorods with tiny particles of platinum, which act as acceptors for the electrons excited by the light absorption. As the LMU group had previously shown, this configuration provides an efficient photocatalyst for the reduction of water to hydrogen. The oxidation reaction, on the other hand, takes place on the sides of the nanorod.
To this end, the LMU researchers attached to the lateral surfaces a ruthenium-based oxidation catalyst developed by Würthner‘s team. The compound was equipped with functional groups that anchored it to the nanorod.
“These groups provide for extremely fast transport of holes to the catalyst, which facilitates the efficient generation of oxygen and minimizes damage to the nanorods,” says Dr. Peter Frischmann, one of the initiators of the project in Würzburg.
The study was carried out as part of the interdisciplinary project “Solar Technologies Go Hybrid” (SolTech), which is funded by the State of Bavaria.
“SolTech’s mission is to explore innovative concepts for the conversion of solar energy into non-fossil fuels,” says Professor Jochen Feldmann, holder of the Chair of Photonics and Optoelectronics at LMU.

 

“The development of the new photocatalytic system is a good example of how SolTech brings together the expertise available in diverse disciplines and at different locations. The project could not have succeeded without the interdisciplinary cooperation between chemists and physicists at two institutions,” adds Würthner, who, together with Feldmann, initiated SolTech in 2012.

Hydrogen+from+water-splitting_

Source: CeNS Center for NanoScience

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