GE Global Research, the centralized research organization of the General Electric Co., has been selected by the Department of Energy (DOE) to lead $11 million of research projects in the development of hydrogen as a fuel source. This research could pave the way for the continued development of fuel cell power sources for automotive and other applications.
These research programs are focused on near- and long-term solutions for the production of hydrogen with sustainable, clean technologies. GE Global Research will contribute approximately $2.5 million to the projects with the balance coming from DOE and other industry partners.
The three projects, chosen through a merit-review, competitive solicitation process, are part of a $75 million research effort announced by DOE to support President Bush's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. According to the DOE announcement, the research effort is reflective of the emphasis the department has placed on renewable and distributed production of hydrogen. The goal of this research is to address major technical and economic hurdles in renewable and distributed hydrogen production technologies that must be overcome to make hydrogen powered transportation a reality.
For the last two years, GE researchers have been exploring hydrogen production, storage, distribution and usage technologies, which would be applicable to both the transportation and energy generation industries. The three programs, being led by GE Global Research are:
- Solar Electrochemical Water Splitting. GE Global Research, along with the California Institute of Technology, will discover materials and develop designs for a solar-to-hydrogen system. The idea is to develop a system that will employ solar energy to extract hydrogen from water using a photoelectrochemical process. This world-class team is suited to meet DOE's goals of developing devices with 9% solar-to-hydrogen efficiency, a lifetime of 10,000 hours, and a hydrogen cost of $22/kg by 2010, $5/kg by 2015 and ultimately, is cost competitive with gasoline.
- Small-Scale Natural Gas/Bio-derived Liquid Reformers. GE Global Research, along with the University of Minnesota and Argonne National Laboratory, will develop a revolutionary compact reforming technology that will enable hydrogen to be produced from natural gas and renewable fuels, such as methanol and ethanol. The proposed hydrogen reformer will allow for significantly greater compactness and lower capital costs than conventional approaches. The concept was selected as a result of detailed process analyses of more than 20 reforming concepts for application in refueling stations. Preliminary analysis demonstrated that the reformer is capable of meeting all performance targets, such as high efficiency, compactness, low capital costs, low emissions and high turndown capability. This project is focused on technology that can be developed and commercialized within a short period of time (approx. 5 years).
- Next-Generation Electrolyzers. GE Global Research, along with Northwestern University and Functional Coating Technology, LLC, will develop an electrolyzer concept that is efficient, affordable and environmentally friendly. Electrolysis, extracting hydrogen from water, is one of the cleanest methods for producing hydrogen from an abundant source that produces no carbon emissions and allows for distributed hydrogen generation. Yet current electrolysis production technologies are energy-intensive and not cost-competitive on a large scale.
High-temperature steam electrolysis using solid oxide technology has the potential for highly efficient and affordable hydrogen generation. A reversible solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) hydrogen production system capable of producing either hydrogen or electricity on demand is a pathway to a cost-competitive, distributed renewable system.
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