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Text Version of Video on NREL's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research

This is a text version of the video about NREL's hydrogen and fuel cell research.

IT IS SIMPLICITY AND ABUNDANCE... HYDROGEN, THE MOST COMMON ELEMENT IN THE UNIVERSE MAY HOLD THE KEY TO A CLEANER, MORE SUSTAINABLE ENERGY FUTURE.

Todd Deutsch, Scientist IV

"It really is the end game for energy. If we can turn sunlight and water into a clean fuel, then we don't have to further alter our energy structure."

George Sverdrup, Laboratory Program Manager

"Today, most hydrogen is produced by natural gas and as we look to the future, we believe that we need to derive more and more hydrogen from renewable energy sources."

NREL, THE NATIONAL RENEWABLE ENERGY LABORATORY IN GOLDEN, COLORADO, IS WORKING TO UNLOCK THE POTENTIAL OF HYDROGEN... AND TO ADVANCE THE FUEL CELL TECHNOLOGIES THAT WILL POWER THE AUTOMOBILES, EQUIPMENT, AND BUILDINGS OF TOMORROW.

Sverdrup

"We have scientists who are working at understanding the very nature of hydrogen and how it behaves with different types of materials... to enable our engineers then to develop better ways to produce hydrogen from renewable energy using solar, wind energy, and biomass, for example."

IN ITS NATURAL FORM, HYDROGEN IS ALMOST ALWAYS BONDED WITH ANOTHER ELEMENT. SO, NREL RESEARCHERS ARE SEPARATING THOSE MOLECULES USING SUSTAINABLE ENERGY SOURCES.

Deutsch

"We are trying to convert sunlight and water into hydrogen fuel, and we do that using semiconductors."

SCIENTISTS IN NREL'S PHOTOELECTROCHEMICAL HYDROGEN PRODUCTION LAB...

Deutsch

"We have the world record for efficiency of solar-water splitting."

...ARE USING SOLAR ENERGY TO SPLIT WATER INTO HYDROGEN AND OXYGEN TO CREATE FUEL.

"We're sticking our photovoltaic material directly into solution and shining light on it, and you get hydrogen right off of the surface."

IT IS ONE OF THE CLEANEST WAYS TO PRODUCE HYDROGEN, BUT IT'S NOT THE ONLY METHOD.

Maria Ghirardi, Manager of Photobiology Group

"Photobiological hydrogen production is one of many alternatives that are being considered as hydrogen-producing technologies."

THE PHOTOBIOLOGICAL PROCESS RELIES ON ORGANISMS LIKE GREEN ALGAE OR CYANO-BACTERIA (BLUE-GREEN ALGAE) TO SPLIT WATER AND GENERATE HYDROGEN.

Ghirardi

"Biological organisms do photosynthesis... photosynthesis is essentially the same process."

"This is the fermentation of the corn stover for hydrogen production..."

FERMENTATION OF PRETREATED BIOMASS FEEDSTOCKS IS ANOTHER APPROACH.

THIS PROCESS INVOLVES BREAKING DOWN AND CONVERTING SUGAR-RICH FEEDSTOCKS...

Pin-Ching Maness, Principal Scientist

"Agricultural residues such as corn stover, your wheat straw, your rice straw..."

...TO GENERATE HYDROGEN.

THE CHALLENGE WITH EACH APPROACH... IS TO LOWER THE COST AND INCREASE PRODUCTION.

Maness

"We're hoping that by lowering the feedstock costs, using lingo-cellulosic biomass and developing a genetic system by removing competing pathways, we'll decrease the feedstock costs and improve hydrogen yield."

Kevin Harrison, Senior Engineer

"Inside this building, we have two electrolyzers that produce hydrogen from water and renewable energy..."

THE WIND TO HYDROGEN PROJECT AT NREL'S NATIONAL WIND TECHNOLOGY CENTER IS EXPLORING WAYS TO USE WIND AND SOLAR ENERGY TO HARVEST HYDROGEN.

Harrison

"These systems in here are electrolyzers and their main purpose in life is to take in electricity – preferably from renewables – and split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is compressed to higher pressures and stored in tanks."

THIS IS JUST THE DAWNING OF HYDROGEN AS A FUEL SOURCE IN OUR COUNTRY. TODAY, HYDROGEN POWERS A RELATIVELY SMALL NUMBER OF BUILDINGS AND VEHICLES, BUT THE POTENTIAL IS LIMITLESS.

Harrison

"We're standing in front of a hydrogen fueling station. It dispenses gaseous hydrogen into vehicles."

HYDROGEN FUEL CELLS ARE A MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY, ENERGY EFFICIENT WAY TO DRIVE.

Harrison

"A fuel cell is two to two-and-a-half times more efficient than an internal combustion engine."

Sverdrup

"Fuel cells are wonderfully simple devices in concept in that we take as input into a fuel cell hydrogen and oxygen – the oxygen, we get from the air."

TOGETHER, THE HYDROGEN AND OXYGEN IN A FUEL CELL PRODUCE ELECTRICITY... POWERFUL AND POLLUTION-FREE.

Mike Ulsh, Senior Engineer

"You can think of it as a mix between an engine, like you have in your car, and a battery. Like an engine, you continuously feed fuel to a fuel cell and it creates energy... but like a battery, it doesn't work with combustion. It works with chemical reactions."

A FUEL CELL FOR TRANSPORTATION CONVERTS FUEL TO ELECTRICITY THROUGH A THIN MEMBRANE WITH THE HELP OF A CATALYST... IT'S THE HEART OF THE FUEL CELL.

Ulsh

"Around the outside is this thin, plastic film...

"In the middle then, the black part is what we call a catalyst. The catalyst is actually the part that allows hydrogen and oxygen to combine and create electricity."

Huyen Dinh, Senior Scientist

"This is a fuel cell characterization lab..."

LOWERING THE COST AND INCREASING THE DURABILITY OF THE FUEL CELL CATALYST ARE THE WORK OF NREL'S CHARACTERIZATION LAB.

Dinh

"Fuel cells use platinum as a catalyst, so it's very expensive."

THE GOAL IS TO USE LESS PLATINUM IN THE CATALYSTS AND TO FIND EQUALLY EFFECTIVE ALTERNATIVES.

Clay Macomber, Scientist

"We can take any material and we can analyze it.... See when it decomposes, see what gases it gives off when it decomposes."

SCIENTISTS HERE ALSO LOOK AT HOW CONTAMINENTS MAY IMPACT A FUEL CELL AND WHAT MATERIALS WILL OPTIMIZE PERFORMANCE.

Macomber

"It's identifying materials that will be useful in the fuel cells of the future."

Ulsh

"This is what we call a web line... or a continuous processing line."

AS THE FUEL CELLS DESIGNS ARE IMPROVED, NREL IS FURTHERING THE TECHNOLOGIES TO ALLOW MANUFACTURERS TO SCALE UP PRODUCTION.

Ulsh

"It lets us take the R&D innovations and here at the lab, take them that much closer to industry so it's that much easier for them to take ahold of and implement quicker."

THIS IS WHERE SCIENTISTS TEST THE TECHNIQUES TO HELP INDUSTRY PARTNERS INCREASE FUEL CELL PRODUCTION WITHOUT SACRIFICING QUALITY.

Ulsh

"We're going to get the costs for fuel cells down and as that happens, you will see them come into more and more different markets."

"Right now, fuel cells are economically viable in some markets."

THE SMALLER, LIGHTER FUEL CELLS ARE NOW OFTEN THE PREFERRED POWER-SOURCE FOR WAREHOUSE EQUIPMENT LIKE FORKLIFTS AND IN MANY MILITARY APPLICATIONS WHERE PORTABILITY IS A MUST.

Carl Rivkin, Supervisor for Safety, Codes & Standards

"We want to make sure there are no barriers to commercialization."

MAKING SURE HYDROGEN IS USED SAFELY IS CRITICAL IN MOVING THIS TECHNOLOGY FORWARD.

HYDROGEN FUEL IS AN ODORLESS GAS. IT'S NOT POISONOUS, BUT IT IS FLAMMABLE.

Rivkin

"Therefore, we need to have sensors that will detect any releases of hydrogen and shut down systems and prevent any serious incidents from taking place."

"What I'm holding is a small sample of a hydrogen sensor..."

SCIENTISTS IN NREL'S SAFETY SENSOR TEST LABORATORY ARE ASSESSING THE FUNCTIONALITY OF THESE IMPORTANT DEVICES...

"We subject them to temperatures, pressures, and humidities."

AND PASSING THAT VALUABLE INFORMATION ALONG SO MANUFACTURERS CAN IMPROVE THEIR PRODUCTS.

NREL PLAYS A CENTRAL ROLE AS WELL IN ESTABLISHING THE INTERNATIONAL CRITERIA FOR HANDLING AND OPERATING HYDROGEN FUEL SYSTEMS.

Rivkin

"We want to make sure that there are comprehensive safety codes and standards in place to protect the public and allow for the safe use of hydrogen."

Keith Wipke, Senior Engineer

"We're in our Hydrogen Secure Data Center..."

THE TECHNOLOGY VALIDATION TEAM IS EVALUATING SOME OF THE FIRST HYDROGEN FUEL CELL SYSTEMS TO SEE HOW THEY DELIVER IN REAL-WORLD CONDITIONS.

Wipke

"Right now, we're analyzing fuel cell electric vehicles... cars, buses, forklifts, back-up power and stationary power for houses and buildings."

TAKING THIS TECHNOLOGY TO THE ROAD ALLOWS FOR ACTUAL EXPERIENCE WITH THE PIONEERS IN HYDROGEN-FUELED TRANSPORTATION.

FOR THE LENGTH OF A ONE-YEAR LEASE, NREL'S HYDROGEN BUS WAS RESEARCH IN MOTION.

Wipke

"Right now, NREL is operating a Hydrogen ICE – stands for internal combustion engine – vehicle running on hydrogen."

James Bosch, Public Affairs

"The hydrogen bus uses renewable hydrogen that was generated at the National Wind Technology Center..."

THE LOW-EMISSIONS BUS SERVED AS A MOBILE TEACHING TOOL. IT GAVE PASSENGERS A FIRST-HAND LOOK AT THE POWER OF HYDROGEN FUELS.

Bosch

"Absolutely, it's part of our sustainability movement here on the campus."

Wipke

"The Hydrogen ICE is really a stepping stone between today's gasoline technology and hybrid technology and tomorrow's zero-emission technology of fuel cells."

HYDROGEN AND FUEL CELLS ARE A FUNDAMENTAL PART OF THE BROADER PORTFOLIO OF RENEWABLE TECHNOLOGIES THAT ARE MOVING OUR NATION TOWARD ITS GOALS OF ENERGY INDEPENDENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY.

THE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT TAKING PLACE TODAY AT THE NATIONAL RENEWABLE ENERGY LABORATORY IS PAVING THE WAY FOR NATURE'S MOST PLENTIFUL ELEMENT TO POWER THE NEXT GENERATION.

Sverdrup

"I trust that this chapter of hydrogen fuel cells will be looked upon as the era when we developed those first technologies that penetrated into the marketplace, got people excited about a new way of driving... a new way of powering our buildings, a way of using energy that's sustainable."