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Emerging Hydrogen Storage Technology Could Increase Energy Resilience

As these outages increase, energy storage will play a key role in ensuring a reliable power supply to critical infrastructure, such as healthcare facilities, data centers and telecommunications.   July 5, 2022


By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor


Institutional and commercial facilities face a range of threats to their ongoing operations and resilience, from wildfires and rising coastal waters to tornadoes and earthquakes. One such threat tends to get fewer headlines but poses just as significant a threat to facilities — power outages caused by an unreliable electrical grid. 

As these outages increase due to power surges and extreme weather events, energy storage will play a key role in ensuring a reliable power supply to critical infrastructure, such as healthcare facilities, data centers and telecommunications. Hydrogen shows promise as an energy storage solution, and researchers are developing materials that can help store hydrogen for long durations at low cost and high energy efficiency. 

With support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office, a team of researchers has examined backup power systems based on sponge-like materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOF) and found that with further research and development, they could be cost-competitive with other energy storage technologies for backup power. 

MOFs are porous crystal materials made of metal ions, where large pores within the crystals can store hydrogen gas. As part of DOE’s Hydrogen Materials Advanced Research Consortium, and working with researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and UC Berkeley, the team used techno-economic analysis and process modeling to analyze system performance. 

“MOFs have high surface areas and hydrogen adsorption capacities, where hydrogen molecules can cling to the surface of the MOF cavities,” says Peng Peng, Berkeley Lab postdoctoral researcher and lead author. “Specifically for backup power applications, they have a simple charge/discharge mechanism, allowing the stored hydrogen to be released immediately upon discharge without the use of chemical reactions, which typically require high temperatures.” 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor for the facilities market. He has more than 25 years of experience covering engineering, maintenance, and grounds management issues in institutional and commercial facilities. 

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