The search for clean hydrogen fuel at MAX IV

The search for clean hydrogen fuel at MAX IV

The world is transitioning away from fossil fuels and hydrogen is poised to be the replacement. Two things are needed if we are to make the transition to a low carbon, “hydrogen economy” they are clean and high yielding sources of hydrogen, as well as efficient means of producing and storing energy using hydrogen.

Hydrogen powered cars are the perfect case study for how a hydrogen-fuelled future would look. While they work and show a great deal of promise, the best examples of hydrogen being used in fuel require very clean sources of hydrogen. If the source of hydrogen is mixed with contaminants like carbon monoxide, the efficiency of the fuel goes down and causes downstream problems in the fuel cell.

A team from KTH led by Jonas Weissenrieder is visiting MAX IV this week to try and solve this exact problem, how can we generate clean hydrogen for fuel cells? The team is working on a process to catalyse the oxidation of carbon monoxide, which adversely affects fuel cell performance, to harmless carbon dioxide. The catalysis reaction must be selective, and not affect the hydrogen gas that could be oxidised to water which is not great for running car engines.

The team is doing the work as part of commissioning experiments on the HIPPIE end station where they are taking advantage of the unique setup. The first innovation is that they are performing X-ray photoemission spectroscopy at relatively high pressure. This is important because it more closely resembles the conditions inside the hydrogen fuel cell. Secondly, they are using the new infrared spectroscopy instrument at the HIPPIE endstation. The setup means that Weissenrieder and his team can perform simultaneous XPS and infrared spectroscopy on one sample. This is a huge benefit according to Weissenrieder, allowing them to collect more pieces of this complex puzzle in one go.

Experiments will continue into next week when Weissenrieder and his team will return back to Stockholm to anayse their data.