Ten years ago the NSF Center for Innovation in Solar Fuels (CCI-Solar) commenced its full-scale operation on fundamental research related to the subject of solar-driven water splitting for energy storage and utilization. This year marks the final year of CCI-Solar under NSF sponsorship. Much progress has been made on the Center's theme as detailed in the many publications acknowledging its support. A detailed list can be found at http://www.ccisolar.ca....edu/webpage/75.
In light of the substantial progress made in many laboratories by CCI investigators and other researchers around the world in the fundamental science of solar fuels, it is fitting to look ahead to determine how close we are to realizing the translation of this science into technology and the implementation of a genuine solar-based hydrogen economy. Since we think that much progress has been made scientifically and technologically in the past ten years, we are creating this blog that looks ahead ten years and calling it Hydrogen 2027.
Less than 1/4 mile from our annual CCI retreat in January 2017, we found a gas fueling station selling hydrogen for fuel cell cars (see picture).
This is one of a limited but growing number of such fueling stations that have been created in California in its efforts to increase the number of zero emission vehicles on its roads. The hydrogen delivered at this gas station is distributed at 70 MPa pressure into reinforced tanks of hydrogen fuel cell cars. It is evident that engineers and technologists have been working on challenges related to distribution and storage of H2, but it is also noteworthy that the hydrogen delivered at this and other such fuel stations comes from reforming of natural gas. So the challenge to make solar-based hydrogen on the scale that will be needed remains.
We invite your perspectives and comments regarding where we may be in 10 years in moving fundamental science to practical reality. What are the specific challenges that must be met, as well as obstacles that may prevent a carbon-free solar-based technology. While hydrogen has the highest specific energy of any chemical fuel (energy per unit mass) and does well relative to any real or imagined batteries in terms of energy per unit volume even as a gas, the reality of fuel cell cars trails that of battery-based electric cars.
We acknowledge that there are major economic and technological considerations to a hydrogen-based energy future, and we also recognize that the "perfect" is sometimes the enemy of the "good" in terms of moving toward practical implementation. Many of the things we now use are far improved from what they were when they first appeared in the marketplace. This will undoubtedly be true in the move to a hydrogen energy future.
So in this blog, we invite your thoughts on the possibilities and challenges to a genuine solar energy future that will affect us in all aspects of our lives. We will not have research advances posted here - that is the job of scientific, peer-reviewed journals. Rather, we ask that you participate in identifying and analyzing - possibly in detail -problems to be addressed on all fronts from applied research to technological and economic.