Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Hydrogen: Production and Storage of Hydrogen

The Hydrogen network brings together leading researchers from different disciplines and sectors with a combined expertise that maximises the chance of achieving scientific breakthroughs in production and storage of hydrogen, while guaranteeing the successful training of a new generation of scientists for tackling scientific problems standing in the way of the hydrogen economy. Training in research on production and storage of hydrogen is important because the realisation of the hydrogen economy will lead to reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, enhanced energy security, increased competitiveness of and increased economic growth in Europe. The target of the European Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Technology Platform is to have 1-5 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on European roads in 2020. To meet this target, we will train new researchers who can help Europe come up with the solutions for production and storage of hydrogen that will make possible cheap, carbon-free production of hydrogen from renewable sources, avoiding further global warming, and will facilitate the efficient use of hydrogen by automobiles.

2006 - 2010
Geert-Jan Kroes

Prof. G.J. Kroes (coordinator; Leiden University), Prof. H. Jonsson (Science Institute, Univ. of Iceland), Prof. A. Züttel (Eidg. Materialprufungs & Forschungsanstalt, Dübendorf, Switzerland), Prof. M. Graetzel (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne), Prof. W. Grochala (Warsaw University, Poland), Prof. J.K. Nørskov (Technical University of Denmark), Prof. D.C. Clary (University of Oxford, UK), Prof. B. Kasemo (Chalmers Univ. of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden), Dr. H. Geerlings (Shell Global Solutions Int. B.V. Amsterdam).

Research summary

Realising a sustainable hydrogen economy requires breakthroughs in the production and storage of hydrogen. Focussing on research areas that have been singled out as areas that might see such breakthroughs, the network aims to devise a tandem cell which can photoelectrochemically convert solar energy to energy in hydrogen with an efficiency greater than 10%, and to find the best possible complex-metal hydride hydrogen storage system for on-board storage in automobiles. Because the best materials devised sofar for both photoelectrochemical hydrogen production and storage in complex metal hydrides are nanocrystalline with large surface-to-volume ratio, a mixed theoretical/experimental, academic/industrial, physics/chemistry team has been constructed which has the maximum chance to achieve these goals, by taking a concerted nanoscience/surface science approach to both production and storage of hydrogen. Such a concerted effort can only be achieved in the framework of a Research Training Network bringing together leading experts in these contributing, complementary areas.

The importance of research for the hydrogen economy

The importance of research aimed at enabling the introduction of hydrogen as a clean fuel can hardly be overstated, and the introduction of the hydrogen economy is a stated policy goal of the EU. First, fossile fuels reserves are limited. Present estimates are that, at the current usage rate, oil will run out in 40 years, natural gas in 60 years, and coal in 200 years. Second, scientific evidence is accumulating that the emission of CO2 that accompanies fossile fuel use is leading to global warming. In the Third Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects an increase of mean global average temperature by 2-6 °C by the year 2100, relative to pre-industrial times. Averting the associated impacts (such as sea level rise, with relevance to European countries like the Netherlands) requires a switch to renewable energy technologies. Renewable hydrogen (produced without CO2 emission) is a primary candidate, especially for use in the transportation sector. However, the introduction of hydrogen as a major fuel requires breakthrough solutions for the cost-effective production of hydrogen from renewable energy sources, and for on-board storage of hydrogen in automobiles. The aim of the network is to contribute to the achievement of these solutions by the research here proposed, and by training a new generation of researchers in the skills needed for solving the problems associated with the introduction of the hydrogen economy.


The network's two research goals can be summarised as follows. The first goal is to devise a tandem cell which can convert solar energy to chemical energy with an efficiency of 10% or more, using a new nanostructured metaloxide material, and based on an atomic scale understanding of the mechanism of photooxidation of water on metaloxide surfaces, this step being the crucial step. The second goal is to find the best possible hydrogen storage hydrogen material for cheap on-board storage in automobiles (> 5wt%, reversible), by determining experimentally and theoretically what constitutes a good catalyst and what makes the material (and its combination with a catalyst) reversible, by investigating well known and relatively unexplored complex metal hydrides.

Relevance to the specific objectives of the Marie Curie action 

Integrating disciplines

The academic partners have their roots in fundamental physics (UI, DTU), applied physics (FRI, CHA) and chemistry and chemical engineering (LEI, EPFL, OXF, WAR), showing the highly interdisciplinary character of the network. The expertise of the partners is summarized in Table 2.1, which shows that the contributions to the training programme are highly complementary. Synergy comes from the fact that both research goals (w.r.t. production and storage of hydrogen) have to be achieved to realise the hydrogen economy, and from the unified nanoscience/surface science approach that will be taken in research on production and storage. Also, some of the partner groups (LEI, DTU, CHA) will perform research on both topics in the framework of this proposal. The groups have extensive experience with international collaboration, and there is already intense collaboration between many of the partners. Four of the groups (LEI, DTU, OXF, UI) are currently part of one and the same Research Training Network (Predicting Catalysis) that will end on 1 July 2006, and there are many links between these groups and the other participants, and among the other participants.

Industry-academia cooperation

Industrial partners play an essential role in the programme. Their involvement guarantees the valorisation of the results: HS (an SME) and SHL are end-users of the breakthrough discoveries that are potentially made in the research of the academic partners on production and storage of hydrogen. The industrial partners will take promising methods for production and storage of hydrogen to further develop these methods and to scale them up. They provide a stimulating new environment for fellows who want to explore the opportunities of an industrial career, allowing them to perform research in a business-oriented environment. The industrial partners will give essential input in the training programme, by providing courses on communication and presentation, research management, handling of IP, and entrepreneurship. New skills and knowledge gained by the academic partners will be disseminated into an industrial environment. The project will make a strong contribution to fostering industry-academia interaction. Given the expected importance of research for the hydrogen economy over the next decades, we expect that the links that will be formed between the academic and the industrial partners during the contract period will continue to exist and even become stronger after this period.

Training programme and transfer of knowledge activities

The network will train 10 ESRs (30 fte years) and 6 ERs (11.5 fte years) in research on production and storage of hydrogen. Training young people in research aimed at realising the hydrogen exconomy is a stated European policy goal. Training is provided in the scientific areas that are associated with the research objectives, with an emphasis on interdisciplinarity and intersectorial aspects. It will be based on personalized career development plans to provide the ESRs and ERs with balanced sets of skills and advanced knowledge at the leading edge of science and technology.

Training objective

The network's goal is to train a new generation of researchers in the skills needed for solving problems associated with production and storage of hydrogen, the solution of which is crucial to a future hydrogen economy. Training young researchers to perform research on problems related to the hydrogen economy and to teach the science associated with hydrogen are stated European policy goals. To achieve the educational goal and the research goals outlined above, training will be provided in scientific skills and complementary skills.

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