(This is a preprint of my column “Cool Fuel” for Cold Facts, the magazine of the Cryogenic Society of America.)

Flash back for a moment to that time in college when the professor had a typo on the assignment that caused you to lose a night in frustration. Anger, fatigue, and disrespect come to mind as you stormed to class the next day, handed in the assignment, and pointed out the mistake, now corrected. The professor, unmoved by the display, proceeds to pull up the original research publication on which the assignment was based, where the same error appears, an error, sans erratum, that propagated like a virus through the field. Reality sets in that the lesson we thought we were being taught was not the most important lesson we needed after all. Moreover, we left with a working and corrected code to stop the chain. Confidence and a realization of ability, no, obligation to contribute come to mind.

Earlier this month I realized a dream I’ve had for nearly two decades: a graduate level course on Cryogenic Hydrogen. Why such a niche topic? The amount of money moving into liquid hydrogen is bringing people, with or without training, into this industry. North America has safely distributed 80-90% of small merchant hydrogen via liquid tanker truck for over 60 years and I want the streak to continue indefinitely. However, the amount of merchant hydrogen we need to distribute must increase approximately three orders of magnitude to meet the International Energy Agency’s 2050 clean hydrogen goals.[i] Innovation will be all but essential for scaling to these needs, and the original pioneers of cryogenic hydrogen that really understood these systems are nearly all gone. We don’t have time to piecemeal together the courses on Hydrogen Technologies, Thermodynamics, Thermophysical Properties, Heat Transfer, and Cryogenics that I had to. Moreover, there are many lessons (and errors) I’ve had to learn the hard way that need not be repeated.

A new textbook is in development to accompany the course: “Cool Fuel: The Science and Engineering of Cryogenic Hydrogen.” I partnered with my colleagues Professor Konstantin Matveev and Professor Øivind Wilhelmsen to draft the text over the last year. Konstantin is also from Washington State University and adds considerable experience with Reduced Order Modeling and Computational Fluid Dynamics in the areas of thermoacoustics and fluid-surface phenomena. Øivind is from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) where he developed complimentary cryogenic property models as well as many optimizations of large-scale liquefaction systems and components. Between the three of us we’ve drafted a compelling set of chapters:

  1. Historical and future trends in liquid hydrogen technologies
  2. Thermophysical properties of hydrogen
  3. Ortho-parahydrogen conversion
  4. Liquefaction via recuperative and regenerative cycles
  5. Heat exchanger design
  6. Transfer analysis
  7. Storage
  8. Safety

Lectures will follow the text contents with the class concluding the end of April. I am working with WSU’s Global Campus to offer the course asynchronously to industry professionals. We are not aware of a single course or textbook that covers this breadth of topics that are necessary for designing most cryogenic hydrogen systems.

No education in cryogenics would be complete without hands-on safety training. The best feeling of confidence results from successfully applying what you’ve learned from the classroom in the laboratory. The HYPER laboratory is developing a series of ten hands-on cryogenic safety workshops we plan to offer to the public through our Service Center. Workshop topics include basic cryogen safety, safety plan development, practical skills like leak detection of fittings and valves, and culminates in liquid hydrogen transfers. The workshop series will be offered during our safety week that initiates every term. The goal of the workshops is for participants to maintain the superior safety record of the industry while reducing the anxiety associated with developing and implementing new cryogenic hydrogen systems.

If you are interested in taking the course or have specific topics you’d like to see incorporated in the book or workshops, please reach out: jacob.leachman@wsu.edu. I’ll include you in notifications as content becomes available. With your engagement this class, text, and workshop series could become the cryogenic hydrogen experience we all needed, and thankfully got.

[i] https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050