By: April Carson
The potential of hydrogen to store energy from renewable sources has long been known, but the challenge of safely and efficiently transporting and storing it has remained a roadblock. However, new breakthroughs in research have shown that baking soda can effectively catalyze the process of generating electricity through hydrogen.
As the earth's temperature continues to rise, it's becoming increasingly clear that we must shift to energy sources with zero or next-to-zero carbon emissions. This requires moving beyond coal, oil, and natural gas and embracing renewable sources to meet our energy needs.
Clean hydrogen is a highly promising renewable energy carrier that can be produced without the need for fossil fuels. Rather, it can be generated through the electrolysis of water, a process that splits water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen. The resulting hydrogen gas is then collected and stored for use in fuel cells, where it can later be converted back into electrical energy when needed.
The idea shows promise because hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, accounts for 75% of all matter. Beyond its abundance, hydrogen molecules possess two paired atoms that are both non-toxic and highly combustible, akin to Gemini twins.
Hydrogen's potential as a combustive agent has made it a subject of great interest to energy researchers worldwide.
At PNNL, we're dedicated to tackling the challenge of hydrogen storage optimization. Despite the importance of this issue, there's currently no completely safe, cost-effective, and energy-efficient way to store hydrogen at large scales. But we're committed to finding a solution that meets all these requirements.
PNNL researchers recently co-authored a paper that explores the use of baking soda solution for hydrogen storage. The study has been recognized by the esteemed journal, Green Chemistry, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, as a "hot paper" due to its high engagement rate. This innovative research could have a significant impact on the future of hydrogen storage technology.
The paper finds that a baking soda solution can enable hydrogen to be safely stored for transport and release electricity when needed. This breakthrough could effectively unlock the door to renewable energy storage by making it more cost-effective, efficient, and safe – paving the way for cleaner energy sources.
PNNL's hydrogen-based storage efforts are funded by the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), as part of the DOE's H2@Scale initiative and Hydrogen Shot program. This research is advancing the agency's mission to promote the use of hydrogen as a clean, efficient, and sustainable energy source.
The two primary authors of the new paper are Thomas Autrey, a chemist and Laboratory Fellow at PNNL, and his colleague Oliver Gutiérrez, who specializes in quick and cost-effective chemical reactions.
Autrey noted that while baking soda is a common and inexpensive household item, it has the potential to solve significant problems. "Not every chemical can efficiently store hydrogen. You have to be imaginative and work with what nature provides," he said.
Thanks to Autrey and Gutiérrez's creativity, baking soda could be a key factor in the future of hydrogen storage. This groundbreaking research offers hope that affordable and efficient hydrogen storage technologies are just around the corner.
While current battery technology is capable of storing energy for several hours, it falls short of being a comprehensive solution. In a renewable energy grid, batteries can address roughly 80% of the storage needs, but further innovation is needed to achieve a fully sustainable energy system.
According to Autrey, while the first 80% of the task can be accomplished using conventional methods, the final 20% requires a more innovative approach. This involves storing excess energy to prepare for Dunkelflaute.
"Dunkelflaute" is a German term used to describe conditions when there is not enough solar or wind energy potential. During these times, energy grids require a way to store energy for more than just a few hours, especially during dark and windless periods.
In terms of renewable energy storage, the development of an efficient and cost-effective hydrogen storage technology could be the missing link in achieving a 100% renewable energy grid. Autrey's work has established a solid foundation for further research into the potential of baking soda to unleash hydrogen's full potential.
Hydrogen's appeal lies in its seasonal storage capability. It is "geographically agnostic," as experts say, meaning it can be stored anywhere without the need for special conditions related to geography. This is in contrast to hydropower, which requires differences in elevation to store excess water for power generation.
The use of baking soda to store hydrogen, as proposed by Autrey and Gutiérrez, is a major step towards renewable energy storage. It could be the tipping point that finally unlocks hydrogen's potential as a clean energy source.
Furthermore, according to Autrey, as the scales of application grow, hydrogen becomes more cost-effective. Instead of multiple batteries, buying a few additional hydrogen storage tanks is cheaper.
The recent breakthrough at PNNL offers an exciting new solution to the challenge of safely and cost-effectively storing energy from renewable sources. By using baking soda as the key catalyst in this process, the research team has opened up a world of possibilities for making hydrogen power a reality.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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