From the production of agricultural fertilizers to the refinement of petroleum and food products-
From cryogenic liquid, gel, slush, and high pressure fueling of automotive vehicles to drones and deep space rockets-
From fusion energy machines to antimatter-
-the number of potential uses for hydrogen is perhaps only matched by the number of ways it can be stored and produced. Suffice it to say, hydrogen’s utility as an energy carrier places broad demands on thermophysical property research. The mission of the HYdrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) laboratory at Washington State University (WSU) is to efficiently advance the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of hydrogen systems for the betterment of humanity. This mission directly addresses WSU’s Grand Challenge Themes of Sustainable Resources and National Security. More specific challenges the HYPER lab seeks to solve include:
- Decreasing the cost of cryogenic refrigeration via technology innovations such as the Heisenberg Vortex.
- Increasing the specific energy and energy density of cryogenic fuel systems.
- Innovating novel systems for harnessing stored cryogenic (thermal) and chemical energy.
- Developing thermophysical property models for handling and purifying cryogenic fluid mixtures.
Despite being the most abundant element in the universe, a zero-emissions clean energy fuel, and essential to all biological processes, hydrogen has a dubious reputation with the public. The highly publicized tragedies of the Hindenburg and Challenger are often incorrectly attributed to hydrogen. Several detailed studies from NASA and others have shown that the Hindenburg disaster was not caused by hydrogen. The Hindenburg’s sister ship, the Graf Zeppelin flew more than a million miles on hydrogen without incident. Challenger was of course caused by the o-ring failure of a solid-oxide rocket booster. Hydrogen infamy is the burden of fueling the cutting edge. Nevertheless, the general public still associates hydrogen with danger. Often this association, when unchallenged, leads to impractical design and safety decisions.
Those who work with hydrogen often say, “Hydrogen is no better, nor worse, than any other fuel. You just have to know the rules for working with hydrogen.” Hence our work and mission in the HYPER lab.
The Spectrum of Humanity’s Evolution Involves Hydrogen
In 1968 the Soviet astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev postulated a classification of societies based on energy utilization. No surprise, since hydrogen is 74% of the known atomic mass of the universe, any world, solar system, or galactic scale society (Kardashev Levels 1,2,3) will rely on mastery of hydrogen technologies, whether they be for renewable energy currency, fusion fuel, or harnessing the power of interstellar nebula. Currently our world is in the midst of transitioning to the first world-sustainable energy technologies at Kardashev Level 1. The internet is the 1st example of a Kardashev Level 1 technology developed by humanity. Information transfers are much easier than mass and energy transfers, but can inform the values necessary to promote mass and energy transfers at the same scale. In short, diversity of approaches are essential and the ability to sustainably share with your friends and community is key. The sustainability, transfer speeds, and portability of hydrogen ensures an important role in this future. HOW is the question.
The HOW of a Hydrogen Organized World
The HYPER lab is pioneering a new approach to the world’s hydrogen economy and increasing the value of renewable energy along the way. We’re developing efficient small modular hydrogen liquefaction technology that allows distributed production associated with renewable sources. This hydrogen can then be distributed and dispensed to the masses via established delivery infrastructure and a technique we’re pioneering called cryogenic thermal compression. Along the way we’re demonstrating fundamentally new approaches to research at universities that leverage student teams for mutual benefit. Crowd sourcing of funds is an essential part of this future. If you’d like to learn more or help, visit our “H2Refuel team” or “How you can help” pages to the left.