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Breakthrough zero-emissions heat generation with hydrogen-metal systems

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - HERMES (Breakthrough zero-emissions heat generation with hydrogen-metal systems)

Berichtszeitraum: 2022-05-01 bis 2023-10-31

Disruptive technologies are urgently required to stave off catastrophic climate change. The FET-Proactive call subtopic c: "Breakthrough zero-emissions energy generation for full decarbonization" states that "Research areas could include, for example, long duration high heat sources from hydrogen-metal systems (e.g. using nickel), energy generation in plasma and cavitation systems. These or any other concepts with similar compact, high energy density and low-cost energy generation capabilities should be harnessed to make them usable for specific application contexts."

All of the research areas identified by the call are highly unconventional. As electrochemists, we will contribute to this call by working on hydrogen-metal systems. We are studying hydrogen (and deuterium) evolution in unconventional conditions, i.e. on metal-hydrides and the main motivation for this work is based on the recent Nature perspective “Revisiting the cold case of cold fusion”. When loading deuterium into the Pd lattice, there is a chance that something very interesting will happen, resulting in production of excess heat. The first report of such reaction was published 30 years ago, but quickly dismissed by the scientific community. But what if there is really something? Can we afford to not to investigate this further, considering the current climate crisis? This is a high risk/high reward project, but with aid of all the improved techniques and tools developed in the last 30 years, we believe that it is worth the risk.

The objectives are: (1) Develop highly reproducible methods to study heat generation and other anomalous effects in hydrogen-metal systems. Specifically, HERMES will focus on method development, with the special emphasis on reproducibility.
(2) Develop highly reproducible methods to manufacture nanostructured hydrogen-metal systems. Specifically, HERMES will develop methods to prepare well-controlled catalyst structures for experiments.
(3) Demonstrate utilization of state-of-the-art tools to study hydrogen-metal systems Specifically, HERMES will develop and demonstrate the use of advanced large scale research facilities such as synchrotrons, neutron sources, as well as mass-spectrometry and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) to study isotope effects on well-structured catalysts. Advanced computational tools such as density functional theory modelling will also be performed.
(4) Explore the possibility for breakthrough zero-emissions heat generation with hydrogen-metal systems. Specifically, HERMES will aim to understand, verify and demonstrate heat generation as well as other anomalous effects from deuterium-palladium systems.
(5) Establish an interdisciplinary community to foster the emergence of a broader innovation ecosystem and create a fertile ground for future take-up of the new technological paradigm based on heat production by metal-hydrogen systems. Specifically, if anomalous effects of Pd-D system can be demonstrated reproducibly, HERMES action will assemble a multidisciplinary scientific advisory board to evaluate the results, try to identify any possible sources of error overlooked in the project, and to gain scientific acceptance for the HERMES results.
(6) Understand isotope effects in hydrogen evolution and oxidation reactions. We acknowledge that there is very high probability of failing to reproducibly produce anomalous effects in the Pd-D system. Therefore, all the techniques and methodologies developed in this action will be utilized to study isotope effects for electrocatalysis of hydrogen evolution and oxidation reactions, as well as other effects such as cations in the electric double layer, effect of absorbed hydrogen for reaction mechanism etc.
HERMES project has:
(1) Started to develop highly reproducible methods to study heat generation and developed methods to study other anomalous effects in hydrogen-metal systems. Here, anomalous effects include for example production of excess heat, neutrons, tritium, helium, nuclear transmutations etc. Specifically, HERMES has focused on method development, with the special emphasis on reproducibility. We have successfully reproduced co-electrodeposition experiments by two partners, observing tracks on solid state nuclear detectors. Further evaluation of the origin of these tracks is underway.
(2) Started the development of highly reproducible methods to manufacture nanostructured hydrogen-metal systems. Specifically, HERMES has develop wet chemistry methods and electrochemical erosion methods for Pd nanoparticle synthesis methods, as well as atomic layer deposition methods.
(3) Demonstrated utilization of state-of-the-art tools to study hydrogen-metal systems Specifically, HERMES has developed and demonstrated the use of advanced large scale research facilities such as synchrotron at ESRF, to study electrochemical hydrogen absorption in Pd nanoparticles. Comparison with deuterium will be carried out in the next steps. Advanced computational tools such as density functional theory modelling have been performed for understanding phase diagrams as well as hydrogen evolution on Pd-H system.
(4) Generated understanding on proton reduction reactions on Pd, and oxidation reactions, other effects such as cations in the electric double layer, effect of absorbed hydrogen for reaction mechanism etc. We will extend these studies to Pd-D system.
HERMES action is highly ambitious, as it aims to investigate, if nuclear reactions can take place in metal lattices at relatively moderate temperatures. Furthermore, it will go beyond the state-of-the-art by employing sophisticated techniques to synthesize nanostructured Pd and Pd-alloy catalysts. We have already gained insights into behavior of Pd in the presence of hydrogen, unexpectedly high catalytic activity of Pd towards proton reduction, as well as electric double layer effects of Pd single crystals. To reveal what happens when deuterium or hydrogen is loaded into the Pd lattice, we will use the best available research tools, including synchrotron x-rays, and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, and quantum chemical calculations by supercomputers. We will develop electrochemical deuterium/hydrogen compressors, and explore electrochemical loading of Pd and electrochemical compression of hydrogen and deuterium at high temperatures utilizing proton conducting solid oxides.

The technologies developed in HERMES action, as such, will most likely have little commercial value, as we aim to demonstrate the effect utilizing Pd-D as a model system. However, if we can prove that it is possible to generate heat reproducibly by nuclear reactions in the Pd lattice loaded with deuterium, it could have an enormous impact on modern physics. If similar reactions can be realized with inexpensive material systems could be realized, this would enable a game-changer technology for zero-emission heat generation to enable widespread electrification of the heating systems. Such results are unlikely, but possible, and therefore this project is truly high-risk/high gain. Other impacts include advances in calorimetry, synthesis, and characterization techniques, as well as better understanding of isotope effects in electrocatalysis and materials science.
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