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Pathways to Renewable Hydrogen Video (Text Version)

Below is the text version of the Pathways to Renewable Hydrogen video.

Voiceover: It is the most plentiful element in the universe and it's a key component in the suite of renewable options needed as we transition to a cleaner, more secure energy strategy.

Keith Wipke: Hydrogen is a really important part of the portfolio of our energy in this country.

Voiceover: In nature hydrogen is combined with other elements but, when separated, it is a powerful energy carrier used as a transportation fuel in zero-emission fuel cell vehicles. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is developing and advancing a number of pathways to renewable hydrogen production.

Pin-Ching Maness: One methodology of making renewable hydrogen is using biological means to break down lignocellulosic biomass.

Voiceover: Biomass is an array of abundant, sugar rich plant-based material. A fermentation process in the lab breaks down the complex sugars in biomass, without oxygen, to produce hydrogen.

Pin-Ching Maness: In our group we use a very novel bacterium that can directly ferment the very complex substrate and generate a lot of hydrogen.

Voiceover: Another promising pathway to renewable hydrogen is photobiological.

Pin-Ching Maness: The photobiological process in a way is a parallel of the fermentation. The only difference is now the microbe has this unique capability to carry out photosynthesis.

Voiceover: In this case pigments in water-grown algae and cyanobacteria absorb sunlight and generate hydrogen through photosynthesis. The challenge is that photosynthesis also releases oxygen, which inhibits hydrogen production.

Pin-Ching Maness: NREL has been conducting research in overcoming that grand challenge by engineering some of the more oxygen-tolerant pathways into algae and cyanobacteria.

Voiceover: One thing is certain. Sunlight is an effective way to break the bond between oxygen and hydrogen in water.

Pin-Ching Maness: Water is our most rich resource in terms of hydrogen. So the direct splitting of water is the holy grail way of making hydrogen.

Todd Deutsch: We're in the photoelectrochemical hydrogen production laboratory and our goal here is to turn sunlight and water into hydrogen fuel.

Voiceover: Scientists here use high-efficiency multi-junction solar cells developed at NREL to split water.

Todd Deutsch: So you shine light at it and it pushes electrons out the front and it reduces protons into hydrogen, and that's what you can see bubbling off the surface.

Voiceover: This is one of the cleanest pathways to convert water to hydrogen. The goal now is to make electrolyzing water to hydrogen more cost-competitive with other fuel sources.

Todd Deutsch: The potential is limitless. I mean, we have tons of sunlight and we have tons of water on our planet, so we could expand our energy economy to meet however many people we put on this planet in a renewable fashion with no byproducts.

Kevin Harrison: In my opinion renewable electrolysis is really the ultimate end goal. If you're using solar or wind-powered electricity to power your electrolyzer, you now havein the case of transportationa renewable transportation fuel, and that's a huge success. That's a big departure from where we are today.

Voiceover: Hydrogen is an exceptional energy carrier much like electricity, which makes it ideal for transportation with zero carbon emissions.

Kevin Harrison: The energy in hydrogen is stored in tanks on a fuel cell electric vehicle, and the fuel cell itself is the engine that provides the power. And you're feeding it hydrogen to move down the road.

Keith Wipke: Think about fuel cells like a battery. It's got a bunch of layers all sandwiched together and when the hydrogen comes in it reacts with oxygen from the air and creates waterH2Oand electricity and heat. But unlike a battery where the energy is stored in the plates, the energy is actually stored in the gas coming in.

Voiceover: Hydrogen fuel cell technology is in use today, offering high productivity with fast refueling for equipment like forklifts, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are emerging in the transportation market.

Keith Wipke: They run on hydrogen, they can be refueled in three to five minutes, run 300 or 400 miles, and then be refueled again in three to five minutes. So an exact replacement as far as a consumer is concerned for a car that can meet their everyday needs.

Kevin Harrison: What's different is a fuel cell is two to two and a half times more efficient than the gasoline engines we drive around in today.

Voiceover: Researchers at NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility are evaluating and improving the hydrogen and fuel cell infrastructure

Kevin Harrison: It's a six-axis robot intended to simulate a human refueling a car.

Voiceover: to enhance the consumer experience and ensure safety.

Keith Wipke: Hydrogen is a safe fuel. It's very predictable, it's light and so when it escapes it does go up and kind of get out of the way.

Voiceover: NREL works closely with academic and industry partners with the shared goal of realizing the full potential of hydrogen technologies.

Keith Wipke: Really our partnership with industry is critical because they tell us what the problems are, and we work on them in the lab with them and with their inputs, and then we hopefully feed that back out in industry to get better products on the market.

Todd Deutsch: It's really exciting to be in this field. I mean, I feel lucky that I get to come to work and do something I believe in every day and be on the cutting edge of this technology.

Voiceover: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is transforming the way we power our country to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and lessen our impact on the environment.

Keith Wipke: We actually have to push forward now. It's really critical that NREL is involved today to help the research and development on making low-cost, renewable hydrogen.

Voiceover: Renewable hydrogenunlocking and exploring its poweris a crucial element of our clean energy future.