Project aims for dual-use hydrogen energy storage

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A £1m project is underway at Nottingham University to develop dual-use energy storage technology that delivers hydrogen to a fuel cell and generates direct cooling for refrigeration.

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The University said the technology will target commercial food operations where refrigeration can be responsible for 30-60 per cent of electricity usage and 1.2 per cent of the UK’s total CO2 emissions.

In addition to factories and processing plants, the UK food industry also operates a network of 84,000 refrigerated heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) to transport perishable goods. Nearly a quarter of the power output of refrigerated trucks used across the network is required to meet refrigeration demand, resulting in significant CO2 emissions.

High time for heavy duty hydrogen trucks

The technology has the potential to reduce the UK food cold chain’s dependency on imported energy and accelerate the large-scale roll out of hydrogen fuel cells for HGVs, which could lead to an increase in operating efficiency with a corresponding reduction in commercial operating costs.

In a statement, project lead, Dr Sanliang Ling from the Advanced Materials Research Group said: “We aim to develop integrated hydrogen storage technologies that will simultaneously provide the controlled release of hydrogen to service fuel cell power needs and direct cooling.

“Our new technology provides an opportunity to assist in the decarbonisation of the UK food cold chain from farm to fork. This is essential as heating and cooling accounts for over a third of CO2 emissions in the UK."

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the three-year project, which involves expertise from the Faculty of Engineering and Nottingham University Business School, has three key objectives.

First, members of the team will formulate and validate a new intermetallic alloy suitable for dual-use hydrogen storage system for different applications in the UK food cold chain. Critical properties of the alloy include the hydrogen gravimetric/volumetric density and the pressure at which hydrogen can be supplied to a fuel cell across relevant cooling temperatures.

Secondly, a prototype dual-use intermetallic alloy based hydrogen store will be designed and developed. The effective use of the store's hydrogen and thermal capacities, system efficiency and cooling power of a dual-use hydrogen system will be tested under operational conditions corresponding with the requirements of commercial operators prevalent in the UK food cold chain.

Third, a survey of key operators in the UK food transport industry will identify barriers to using hydrogen technology to decarbonise current practices.

“The way we use energy in our buildings makes up almost a third of all UK carbon emissions. Reducing that to virtually zero is going to be key to eradicating our contribution to climate change by 2050,” said Lord Callanan, minister for climate change. “That’s why it’s important that innovative projects like Decarbonisation Of Food Cold Chain Through Integrated Hydrogen Technologies and Variable-Temperature Thermochemical Energy Storage System (VTTESS) in Nottingham receive backing to develop new and effective ways to heat and cool our homes and workspaces.”