(Invited) The Growing Importance of Hydrogen in Our Energy System and Extended Surface Electrocatalyst Development and Implementation

Tuesday, 30 May 2017: 08:05
Grand Salon B - Section 9 (Hilton New Orleans Riverside)
S. M. Alia, K. Hurst, S. A. Mauger, K. C. Neyerlin, S. S. Kocha (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), C. Ngo, S. M. Shulda, S. Pylypenko (Colorado School of Mines), and B. S. Pivovar (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
Today represents a particularly exciting time, as our planet’s energy system is undergoing major changes due to dramatically decreasing renewable energy prices and increasing societal concerns over greenhouse gas emissions, criteria pollutants (arsenic, mercury, NOx, particulate matter), and climate change. These factors are pushing society towards deep decarbonization of our energy system, perhaps the most challenging issue facing the planet today. Unfortunately, wind and solar energy, while both promising generation sources, come with intermittency challenges and have limitations in their abilities to impact industrial and transportation sector demands where fossil fuel energy carriers based on chemical bonds have provided the basis for historic energy demands. Hydrogen offers the potential to meet the multi-GW demand for both grid-balancing and input into the industrial and transportation sectors, as shown schematically in Figure 1. In such an energy system, hydrogen acts as an energy carrying intermediate that parallels electrons (electricity) within the energy system. Such an energy system allows all of society’s demands to be met with greatly reduced environmental impact.

Fuel cells for transportation and power generation are key enabling technologies for this future. However, the commercial viability of such systems is limited by cost, performance and durability with catalysts and electrodes being of central concern.

Our team has investigated extended surface catalysts as a novel platform for increased performance and durability at lower cost. This presentation will highlight the advances of our team in the synthesis of extended surface electrocatalysts with a focus on PtNi nanowires (NWs). While these materials have shown great promise in ex-situ (rotating disc electrode) studies, performance in-situ (fuel cell tests) has not yet reflected the performance potential seen in these ex-situ tests. In large part we attribute this to challenges in electrode fabrication and integration. This presentation will present results that focus on the differences between in-situ and ex-situ properties, quantification of performance losses in fuel cell tests, and our efforts to further improve performance and durability of such systems. These efforts parallel a number of different areas that Dr. Russ Kunz investigated throughout his career, and have benefitted from the knowledge basis Dr. Kunz contributed to throughout his career.

Figure 1: Illustrative future clean energy system in which hydrogen (water electrolysis) plays a key enabling role.