UAM and CSIC Propose New Solution for Safe Transport and Storage of Hydrogen

A team made up of research personnel from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) has developed a technology for the production of hydrogen under ambient conditions from formic acid, using it as a liquid hydrogen-carrying compound. This offers a solution to the safe, sustainable and economical transportation and storage of hydrogen of the future. The results have been registered for patent protection and recently published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A.
UAM and CSIC Propose New Solution for Safe Transport and Storage of Hydrogen
Courtesy of CSIC

Hydroformic, which is what the process developed by the research team has been called, represents an innovative technology that makes it possible to obtain clean hydrogen instantly from formic acid under standard environmental conditions at 25 °C and 1 atm pressure. 

“The cornerstone of this technology lies in the development of a structured catalyst, manufactured using 3D printing technologies, capable of accelerating the catalytic dehydrogenation of formic acid upon contact with it,” says Manuel Belmonte , CSIC researcher in the Group. of Technical Ceramics of the Institute of Ceramics and Glass, of the CSIC.

Studies published by the team show formic acid conversions ranging between 81% and 99%, maintained over long periods of operation, depending on the conditions used. Factors such as temperature, the initial concentration of formic acid and the contact time with the catalyst are determining factors in this process. Although the catalyst undergoes deactivation with use, it can be easily regenerated through a simple drying process at 60 °C. 

“The selectivity of the process towards the dehydrogenation of formic acid is always 100%, in no case is CO detected. Furthermore, the CO 2 generated in the process can be captured at the exit of the reactor, resulting in a stream of high-purity H 2 gas at the exit of the process,” Asunción Quintanilla , scientist in the PROSIAM group of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the UAM, points out.

These results, promising at the laboratory level, are directly scalable to increase the production of high-quality hydrogen. “Among the advantages of the process are that it does not require equipment under pressure and that it uses a catalyst manufactured using 3D printing techniques, which allows it to be easily adapted to any geometry and dimensions of the reactor,” highlights the UAM researcher.

The main challenge in the storage and transportation of hydrogen lies in its low energy capacity per unit volume, which implies the need for large volumes of hydrogen to transport a significant amount of energy. Several strategies have been explored to avoid this limitation. 

The development of safe, efficient and economical methods for storing and transporting hydrogen is a growing area of research that aims to improve the viability of this form of energy in large-scale applications.

A promising alternative for the safe handling of hydrogen is the use of liquid organic hydrogen-carrying compounds, known as LOHCs or carriers in their English terminology. “Hydrogen is chemically bonded to the LOHC, which is stored and transported in the liquid phase. LOCH can release hydrogen when required through a catalytic dehydrogenation chemical reaction,” adds Quintanilla.

In Hydroformic, the use of formic acid as LOHC is innovatively proposed due to its stability and low toxicity. This compound can be distributed and stored under ambient conditions using the existing infrastructure for crude oil and its derivatives. “The main advantage is that formic acid can be derived from renewable sources instead of depending on oil, as is the case with the (petro)LOHC used until now,” concludes the CSIC researcher.

Baterías con premio en la gran feria europea del almacenamiento de energía
El jurado de la feria ees (la gran feria europea de las baterías y los sistemas acumuladores de energía) ya ha seleccionado los productos y soluciones innovadoras que aspiran, como finalistas, al gran premio ees 2021. Independientemente de cuál o cuáles sean las candidaturas ganadoras, la sola inclusión en este exquisito grupo VIP constituye todo un éxito para las empresas. A continuación, los diez finalistas 2021 de los ees Award (ees es una de las cuatro ferias que integran el gran evento anual europeo del sector de la energía, The smarter E).