Solving a tiny problem with urgency

A hydrogen molecule is tiny. So tiny, in fact, that trying to store and transport it via existing tanks and pipes can end up causing cracks in steel. Los Alamos is building solutions to keep it in place and move it at will. We are directing our comprehensive experience toward:

  • Designing and testing of material compatibilities with hydrogen or hydrogen carriers
  • Theory, modeling, and simulation of materials used for storage and delivery systems
  • Subsurface characterization and risk assessment for underground storage

We seek partners to accelerate technology solutions, demonstrations, and deployments in the following areas:

  • Underground storage
  • Chemical/physical storage, including metal hydrides
  • Materials modeling, validation, and design
  • Pipeline design and testing

Underground storage

Hydrogen Storage 1@2x

We offer expertise in long-term underground storage of gases and an extensive knowledge framework for selecting subsurface (geologic) storage sites for both CO2 and hydrogen. This expertise includes:

  • Caprock and wellbore integrity assessment
  • Reservoir characterization
  • Transportation infrastructure
  • Mechanics and leakage monitoring

Hydrogen and reservoir interactions are studied at multiple scales, from field to pore to molecular. Our geologic storage site selection capabilities include:

  • Identification and quantification of biologic and chemical reactions that occur within the different hydrogen subsurface reservoirs being considered
  • Characterization of diffusive and advective transport properties of hydrogen within these reservoir rocks
  • Quantification of caprock integrity and sensing strategies for leakage detection
  • Assessment technical and economic factors

Chemical and physical storage

Hydrogen Storage2@2x

Above-ground storage of hydrogen enables easier access for use at central hydrogen production facilities, transport terminals, and end-use locations. We have extensive experimental capabilities related to chemical and physical storage of hydrogen, including:

  • Synthesis of storage chemicals
  • Systems engineering and system level analysis of hydrogen storage systems
  • Hydrogen storage measurement, capacity, and material property determinations
  • Hydrogen adsorption and impurity quantification
  • Hydrogen-metal organic frameworks design, synthesis, and characterization

Capabilities are available for studying metal fatigue and durability in systems due to embrittlement from hydrogen or high-density hydrogen carriers, such as dimethyl ether (DME) and methanol. We have also developed hydrogen safety sensors, and an in-line hydrogen purity sensor for use at hydrogen refilling stations.

Metal hydrides are a promising hydrogen storage material and we have expertise in their fabrication and advanced characterization. A powder metallurgy fabrication method for components was developed using a hydrogen furnace. This method naturally incorporates a small amount of internal porosity, reducing internal stress concentrations during hydriding and prevents cracking.

In addition, we have capabilities for measuring thermodynamic and diffusion properties of hydrogen behavior in metals. Thermodynamic properties can be measured at temperatures up to 1000°C, and pressures up to 2000 psi. We can quantify hydrogen adsorption rates under different conditions and fabricate metal hydrides through a pressure-controlled direct-hydriding process, used to make small crack-free samples for fundamental studies.

Testing equipment is available for measuring hydrogen permeability (the rate at which hydrogen diffuses through materials and coatings under different temperature and pressure conditions). These capabilities could be leveraged to either develop new metal hydrides with a higher propensity for hydrogen storage or to characterize the performance of existing potential metal hydride solutions.

Materials modeling, validation, and design

Materials Modeling@2x

Los Alamos expertise in hydrogen storage is guided by computational models to investigate fatigue and lifetime characteristics of different hydrogen storage systems. These models look at how defects, fatigue, and damage affect safe hydrogen handling operations and inform the selection of optimal materials for hydrogen storage. Innovative modeling approaches have been developed to probe hydrogen-mineral interactions (for geological storage) or hydrogen-material interactions (for shorter term storage options) across multiple length scales.

Models can also be used to guide materials design, such as those used in hydrogen gas turbines. Various mesoscale, finite element, and other simulation techniques can be applied for composites, ceramics, and crystalline materials to model appropriate material systems compatible with hydrogen, with extended durability. These systems could also potentially be used for cold/cryogenic hydrogen storage. These capabilities can also be leveraged to investigate durability and fatigue of carbon-fiber-based materials for high pressure tanks, and to understand and develop liquid hydrogen physical-based storage systems that can sustain ultracold temperatures.

Simulation studies can be used to investigate the potential for using chemical reactions of amino-borane systems in storing hydrogen or to accelerate the development of other novel materials for hydrogen storage, such as nanostructured foam. In each case, simulation enables exploration of a much wider set of potential materials, which can be validated for their performance in our experimental test facilities.

Advanced design and manufacturing tools can produce high strength, low weight, custom shaped-conformable-hydrogen storage vessels and additively manufactured storage devices.