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Advanced materials for hydrogen storage tanks


Storage of hydrogen is specifically challenging, depending on its physical state; in gas form hydrogen is difficult to contain, whilst in liquid form it requires extremely low temperatures. The current hydrogen storage solutions utilise a number of high-performance materials, such as high-performance steels, aluminium or composites (carbon fibres specifically), which have been developed over many years with projects such as CHATT[[]] and more recent THOR[[]], which considers both the performance and the recyclability. As these materials substantially affect the cost and mass at system level, it is critical that lower cost and lighter storage solutions are developed for hydrogen technologies to be adopted widely[[Hydrogen Roadmap Europe – A sustainable pathway for the European energy transition, Ful Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, 2019]]. Ongoing EU funded project SH2APED[[]]focuses on cost reduction and safety. However, as materials used in the hydrogen storage solution can be a leading cause behind the environmental impacts,[[ELSA WEISZFLOG & MANAN ABBAS ‘Life cycle assessment of hydrogen storage systems for trucks - An assessment of environmental impacts and recycling flows of carbon fibers’ 2022]] sustainable and circular material solutions are critical for the storage tank materials. There are currently very few materials for storage of hydrogen that could be considered as a sustainable material or developed within the circular economy model.

This topic focuses on developing advanced materials to reduce whole life costs and produce lighter solutions for hydrogen storage, whilst developing sustainable circular economy-based components and considering the environmental and social impacts. The hydrogen storage emphasised under this topic covers the form of gas, liquid or cryo-compressed states supporting high-pressure tanks even up to 1,000 bar.

In addition, the EU security of materials supply/independency should be investigated and addressed. All materials used should comply with the actions laid out in the REPowerEU Plan[[REPowerEU Plan 2022]] and other EU initiatives relevant to this topic.

Of particular interest are advanced and next-generation materials with multi-functionality enabling better integration of the storage into the system or having a notable effect on the total system operation (for example, materials which selfheal, thus reducing maintenance requirements). Moreover, materials which allow for storage solutions that occupy more of the useable space are within the scope of this topic. In order to use the benefits of these materials, in their manufacturing, joining often represents a mandatory task to use the benefits of the developed materials. Such joining processes should not compromise the initial material properties or functions. Development of the joining process should consider how this could enable improvement in environmental sustainability and a reduction in whole life costs.

In addition to materials development, the scope includes the development of methods for the inspection and repair of hydrogen storage systems, starting from initial manufacturing to end of life with a specific concern for where access can be challenging. This should enable and support end of life scenarios and life extension of the hydrogen storage solutions.

Proposals should include the materials development for tank hull (e.g. the bottom portion of the tank) focusing on storage solutions for the following uses:

  • Fixed / static storage
  • Mobility applications:
    • Road transportation
    • Marine transportation
    • Aerospace transportation
    • Rail transportation

Hydrogen storage solutions for space applications and large underground storage as well as development of hydrogen carrier materials / solid state storage are out of the scope of this topic.

Building across the applications listed, digitalisation of circular economy (open access) system / platforms should be considered as well as contributions to new standards and regulations within scope of this topic.

In order to validate the project, one for each type of the following demonstrators tested in lab environment (TRL 4) () with the associated full-sized documentation should be included (the testing conditions should be in line with the objectives and KPIs of the Clean Hydrogen JU SRIA stated above):

  • Above ground storage demonstrator:
    • Operating pressure test;
    • Ambient temperatures;
    • Hydrogen gas form;
    • 1 tank containing more than 300 kg of hydrogen.
  • Transport of hydrogen demonstrator:
    • Operating pressure test;
    • Ambient temperatures;
    • Liquid hydrogen or gas form;
    • 1 tank containing more than 150 kg of hydrogen.
  • Heavy-duty road transport demonstrator:
    • Operating pressure test;
    • Ambient temperatures;
    • Liquid hydrogen or gas form;
    • 1 tank containing more than 40 kg of hydrogen.
  • Aviation demonstrator:
    • Operating pressure test;
    • Ambient temperatures;
    • Liquid hydrogen;
    • One tank containing more than 100 kg of hydrogen (Boil-off < 2% in 24 hours).

All objectives mentioned above should be complemented, but not limited to the following additional activities:

  • Whole life cost model;
  • Environmental sustainability / circular economy review;
  • TRL assessment and development plan for increasing from TRL 4 to 8;
  • Relevant material testing data to prove demonstrators have the potential to meet full application specification. The following should be considered where relevant:
    • Mechanical;
    • Permeability;
    • Climate appropriate for application e.g. hot and cold testing;
    • Corrosion resistance;
    • Resistance to fire;
  • Supply chain plan, linked to the REPowerEU action plan[[REPowerEU Plan 2022]], detailing the potential of a sustainable / circular supply chain.

Proposals are expected to explore synergies with the projects supported under HORIZON-CL4-2021-RESILIENCE-01-17 Advanced materials for hydrogen storage’[[]] as well as with other relevant projects supported by the Clean Hydrogen JU on hydrogen storage.

Consortia should gather comprehensive expertise and experience from the EU research community to ensure broad impact by addressing the items above. Partners should have proven expertise and the required means of materials development, characterisation, and testing. Industrial guidance is considered essential, for instance through an industrial advisory board.

Proposals should explain how the results will be exploited, and how key advances from the activities will be communicated to the broader community to ensure rapid uptake of developments by end-users. To facilitate this communication, dissemination should have high priority and most deliverables should be public. A public annual progress report should include, as necessary, recommendations for future activities and possible organisation of workshops.

An extended similar annual report with detailed technical progress results should be provided internally to the JU for fast tracking activities and further programming. The report should include key innovations against TRL, risks, opportunities, challenges and proposed next steps for the development of next generation of technologies and products.

Activities are expected to start at TRL 2 and achieve TRL 4 by the end of the project - see General Annex B.

At least one partner in the consortium must be a member of either Hydrogen Europe or Hydrogen Europe Research.

The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 10.00 million – proposals requesting Clean Hydrogen JU contributions above this amount will not be evaluated.

The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter of the Clean Hydrogen JU 2023 Annual Work Plan and in the General Annexes to the Horizon Europe Work Programme 2023–2024 which apply mutatis mutandis.