Clean technology proponents have long sought to unlock the full potential of hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels. Hydrogen has famously fuelled the rockets that launched NASA’s space shuttles, and now technology advances promise to take the application of this energy source to the next level.
Hydrogen will help to propel humanity “out of the fossil fuel age,” believes Grace Quan, CEO of Hydrogen in Motion. “Right now, we are essentially burning energy formed from the dinosaur period, and that creates a lot of problems for the world. We need to get to a sustainable, renewable technology that will have a positive impact on our environment.”
Hydrogen technology has this potential, she says. “When you combine hydrogen and oxygen, you make water and electricity, which can be used to power any number of motive or stationary equipment with a positive effect for the world.”
The engines propelling light, medium and heavy-duty hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles, such as cars, busses and trains, use high pressure 700-bar hydrogen tanks, requiring big tanks wrapped with carbon fibre that are large, heavy and expensive. Such constraints have limited the wider use of hydrogen for different types of transportation.
Hydrogen in Motion set out to solve the challenge of how to store hydrogen on board of vehicles, says Ms. Quan. “We developed a nanomaterial, like a nanosponge, where hydrogen gets absorbed into the surface of the material using a small amount of pressure, 50 bar. The release of this pressure releases the hydrogen.”
Being able to store hydrogen in solids in a tank at not much more than ambient conditions – and release the energy easily under the same conditions – eliminates numerous safety and distribution barriers, especially since the tanks can be light and portable enough to be easily exchanged – similar to a propane tank but lighter, says Ms. Quan.
With this work, Hydrogen in Motion is connecting the hydrogen supply chain, bringing down costs and making hydrogen fuels easier to apply. “We essentially facilitate hydrogen energy applications by providing a means for storage and distribution,” says Ms. Quan. “It is a battery for hydrogen-sourced energy, and our batteries have five times the energy of lithium-ion batteries.”
Hydrogen in Motion has been working with Simon Fraser University’s Fuel Cell Research Lab, and the solution is ready to scale up, she says. “We are in the process of moving into large-scale production and transferring our facilities into a wet lab with Foresight, a cleantech accelerator in Vancouver.”
By demonstrating the application of its innovative tanks for a range of vehicles, the startup is preparing to “have a commercial product ready by late 2019 or early 2020,” says Ms. Quan, who received the 2019 Canada’s Clean50 award for research and development.
Sponsor content feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.