hydrogen

Hydrogen for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Vehicles

This Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) project is being funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). Project elements include hydrogen production at the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, hydrogen transport to a dispensing station at the Kilauea Military Camp, located within the Hawai‘i Vocanoes National Park (HAVO), and fueling of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle shuttle buses used for visitors to HAVO. Important benefits of this project are the validation of fuel cell vehicle operation, help in reducing barriers to the introduction of hydrogen infrastructure, and benefits to visitors to the HAVO facility. 

The primary HNEI contacts for this project are Richard Rocheleau and Mitch Ewan.  For more information concerning the project, see the Hydrogen for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) Vehicles pdf document. A similar project, providing hydrogen for fuel cell electric vehicles on Oahu, is being funded by the Office of Naval Research, DOE and DBEDT. For details see the Hydrogen for GM Equinox Fuel Cell Vehicles section of our website. For further information on other related HNEI research activities, see the Hydrogen and Transportation research sections of our website.


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Hydrogen from Biomass

Wet wastes and biomass have not been regarded as promising feedstocks for conventional thermochemical conversion processes because of the high cost associated with drying the material prior to entering the reactor. In the 1990s, the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) developed a process for hydrogen production by the catalytic gasification of biomass in supercritical water (water at high temperature and pressure). This "steam reforming" process produces a gas at high pressure (>22 MPa) that is unusually rich in hydrogen. The results of this work, conducted in the Renewable Resources Research Laboratory between 1990 and 2001, are summarized in a series of peer-reviewed publications (Gasification of Biomass in Supercritical Water).

More recent efforts are focused on the thermochemical gasification of biomass in a reactor. This work has been conducted in the Biomass and Fuels Processing Laboratory. Operating at elevated temperature, the gasification process converts the solid biomass into a gas, while maximizing the chemical energy content of the product fuel gas. Previous work has shown that the hydrogen yield from biomass gasification is most sensitive to the reactor temperature and equivalence ratio, both of which depend upon the relative amounts of fuel and oxygen used in the reactor. The hydrogen content of producer gas can be increased by steam reforming methane and higher hydrocarbon species present from the gasification process.

The product gas from the gasification process can be (1) combusted for heat or power generation; (2) processed further via the water-shift reaction to maximize hydrogen production, as mentioned above; or (3) upgraded and utilized as a synthesis gas to produce more easily transported fuels such as ethanol, methanol, or DME. If used in fuel cells, trace contaminants in the product gas must be removed from the gas stream.

HNEI is working on an experimental program focused on gas upgrading and purification for fuel cell applications. HNEI is also pursuing efforts with a number of industrial partners to explore the low-cost production of hydrogen from cellulosic biomass. Part of HNEI’s contribution to this research is in the areas of preprocessing biomass for improved reactor performance and product gas cleanup and conditioning.


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Biological Hydrogen Production

The Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) has carried out research and development (R&D) on biological hydrogen production since the early 1990s. Initially, this project investigated the genetics of cyanobacterial (blue green algae) hydrogenases. A new R&D phase was initiated in 1996 to develop a microalgal indirect biophotolysis process, in which water is converted in separate stages into oxygen and hydrogen (H2). The organism chosen for initial work on this project was a strain of Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) already being commercially grown in Hawaii and used in the prior biohydrogen research at HNEI. Laboratory work confirmed that Spirulina produces H2 by dark fermentations, but not in the light.

The major part of the research carried out under this project from 1996 to 2000 was the operation and engineering studies of the photobioreactors. While this initial work demonstrated the ability to produce Spirulina in the reactors, an indirect biophotolysis process using cyanobacteria in the photobioreactors was not demonstrated.

Proposals for future biohydrogen research at HNEI aim to maximize the yield of H2 from endogenous substrates by dark fermentations in microalgae or by bacteria using exogenous waste substrates. Such processes could produce H2 fuel in small-scale amounts at acceptable costs in the near term, and larger quantities in the long term.


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Hydrogen Details

During this century, the United States is expected to undergo a transition to a sustainable energy economy. Hydrogen has long been considered the ultimate energy carrier, a versatile fuel that converts easily and efficiently to other energy forms without the release of harmful emissions. The view of the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) is that hydrogen and electricity produced from renewables will form the foundation for sustainable energy systems, displacing and eventually replacing fossil fuel resources. Hawaii became an early leader in the push to develop hydrogen as a fuel when, in 1980, U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga introduced the first hydrogen legislation in Congress. In 1983, with a $50,000 appropriation from the Hawaii Legislature, HNEI established the Hawaii Hydrogen Program. In September 1985, HNEI was awarded a contract from the Solar Energy Research Institute (now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) to establish the Hawaii Hydrogen from Renewable Resources Program.

During operation of this program and other subsequent hydrogen projects, HNEI's efforts have focused on developing core technologies for renewable hydrogen production, including direct solar and biological hydrogen production and gasification of biomass, and novel hydrogen storage technologies. In 1990, HNEI hosted the World Hydrogen Energy Conference, which drew 550 specialists from 31 nations. In 1996, DOE designated HNEI's program as a University Center of Excellence for Hydrogen Research and Education.

Photoelectrochemical Hydrogen Production

Development of high-efficiency photoelectrochemical systems to produce hydrogen directly from water, using only sunlight as the energy source, is a major goal of the DOE Hydrogen Program. Since 1995, a number of photoelectrode configurations designed for high efficiency and low cost have been explored in HNEI's Thin Films Laboratory. In 1997, a small scale reactor based on monolithically-stacked triple-junction amorphous silicon/germanium alloy (a-Si:Ge) thin film solar cells was used to demonstrate solar-to-hydrogen efficiencies up to 7.8%. These solar cells were modified with cobalt-molybdenum and iron-doped nickel oxide thin film catalyst coatings developed at HNEI. In separate tests, these thin-film low-cost catalysts were operated in KOH electrolyte for over 5,000 hours with no evidence of significant degradation.

Current efforts are focusing on a UH-patented unique 'hybrid' photoelectrode structure (see the full text of U.S. Patent 6,887,728), developed at HNEI, which combines a tandem a-Si:Ge solar cell monolithically series connected to a thick, photoactive over-coating of nano-structured metal oxide. In early testing, these devices have shown great promise for the development of long-life, high-efficiency hydrogen production systems. Working with key industry and academic partners, HNEI expects to successfully demonstrate solar-to-hydrogen efficiencies in excess of 10% and exceptional stability in a working version of the hybrid photoelectrode by 2015. For more information, click here.

HNEI has carried out R&D on biological hydrogen production since the early 1990s. Initially, this project investigated the genetics of cyanobacterial (blue green algae) hydrogenases. A new R&D phase was initiated in 1996 to develop a microalgal indirect biophotolysis process, in which water is converted in separate stages into O2 and H2. The organism chosen for initial work on this project was a strain of Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) already being commercially grown in Hawaii and used in the prior biohydrogen research at HNEI. Laboratory work confirmed that Spirulina produces H2 by dark fermentations, but not in the light.

The major part of the research carried out under this project from 1996 to 2000 was the operation and engineering studies of the photobioreactors. While this initial work demonstrated the ability to produce Spirulina in the reactors, an indirect biophotolysis process using cyanobacteria in the photobioreactors was not demonstrated.

Proposals for future biohydrogen research at HNEI aim to maximize the yield of H2 from endogenous substrates by dark fermentations in microalgae or by bacteria using exogenous waste substrates. Such processes could produce H2 fuel in small-scale amounts at acceptable costs in the near term, and larger quantities in the long term.

Wet wastes and biomass have not been regarded as promising feedstocks for conventional thermochemical conversion processes because of the high cost associated with drying the material prior to entering the reactor. In the 1990s HNEI developed a process for hydrogen production by the catalytic gasification of biomass in supercritical water (water at high temperature and pressure). This "steam reforming" process produces a gas at high pressure (>22 MPa) that is unusually rich in hydrogen. The results of this work, conducted in the Renewable Resources Research Laboratory between 1990 and 2001, are summarized in a series of peer-reviewed publications (Gasification of Biomass in Supercritical Water).

Current efforts are focused on the thermochemical gasification of biomass. Operating at elevated temperature, the gasification process converts the solid biomass into a gas, while maximizing the chemical energy content of the product gas. The product gas can be (1) combusted for heat or power generation, (2) processed further via the water-shift reaction to maximize hydrogen production, or (3) upgraded and utilized as a synthesis gas to produce more easily transported fuels such as ethanol, methanol, or DME. Under the Hawaii Hydrogen Center for the Deployment and Demonstration of Distributed Energy Systems, HNEI is working with a number of industrial partners to explore the low-cost production of hydrogen from cellulosic biomass. Part of HNEI’s contribution to this project is in the areas of preprocessing biomass for improved reactor performance and product gas cleanup and conditioning.

Storage

While much of the early research on high-density storage systems was conducted under the auspices of HNEI, in 2000 this component was placed under the direction of the University of Hawaii's Department of Chemistry. The latest information on this area can be found at http://www.chem.hawaii.edu/UH_Chem/faculty/jensen.html.

In 2000, HNEI's mandate was broadened when the Hawaii Legislature passed a joint House-Senate resolution tasking the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) to conduct a feasibility study to assess the potential for large-scale hydrogen use in Hawaii. HNEI, in collaboration with Sentech Inc., presented preliminary results to the Legislature in January 2001; the final report, "Nurturing a Clean Energy Future in Hawaii: Assessing the Feasibility of the Large-Scale Utilization of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in Hawaii", was completed in June 2001 and revised in July 2004. The study identified areas where hydrogen and fuel cells have the potential to contribute to Hawaii's energy mix and developed a roadmap to develop this potential. One of the recommendations of the study was the development of public-private partnerships to develop the necessary hydrogen infrastructure. The formation of these partnerships was given additional urgency with passage of Act 283 by the 2001 Legislature, providing initial funding for the development of hydrogen partnerships in Hawaii. Our state energy office (DBEDT), with HNEI as the implementing partner, has been selected by DOE to develop a Hydrogen Power Park in Hawaii. This project, which includes local and national industry elements as cost-share partners, will deploy and demonstrate an integrated hydrogen system comprising electrolysis for hydrogen production, hydrogen storage, and a grid-connected fuel cell. In August 2002, a Hydrogen Partnering Meeting, attended by DOD, DOE, industry, and local utilities, was held on the Big Island to provide additional focus and coordination. Additional partnering projects and proposals are under development (see Hawaii Hydrogen Partnerships).

In addition to the efforts to develop hydrogen infrastructure, HNEI has begun an aggressive fuel cell testing and development effort for military and commercial sectors. The focal point of this effort, the Hawaii Fuel Cell Test Facility, is a collaborative effort of HNEI, UTC Fuel Cells and the Hawaiian Electric Company. Funding is provided by the Office of Naval Research through the Hawaii Energy and Environmental Technology Initiative.

In 2004, HNEI received funded from DOE for the Hawaii Center for Development and Deployment of Distributed Energy Systems. This program involves augmentation of the Hydrogen Power Park, assessment of hydrogen fuels purity requirements for fuel cell applications, R&D of cost-effective renewable hydrogen production, and analysis of potential hydrogen and distributed energy systems for the Big Island grid system.

Contact: Richard E. Rocheleau, HNEI

Director

DOE Hydrogen, Fuel Cells, and Infrastructure Technologies Program information can be found at: http://www.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/index_html.html

 


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Hydrogen for GM Equinox Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

This is an ongoing Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) activity supported in part by the US Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research, and the State of Hawai‘i Hydrogen Fund.  In addition to HNEI, project partners include the Hawai‘i Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies and Marine Corps Base (MCB) Hawai‘i.  The project involves the installation of a hydrogen production, storage, and dispensing system for fueling General Motors Equinox fuel cell electric vehicles at MCB Hawai‘i.  Transportation at MCB Hawai‘i would make use of ‘green’ technology.  The use of hydrogen under this activity would permit validation of fuel cell vehicle operation, and would help to reduce barriers to the introduction of the hydrogen infrastructure required to advance the “Hydrogen Economy.” 

The primary HNEI contact for this project is Mitch Ewan.  For more information concerning the project, see the Hydrogen for GM Equinox Fuel Cell Vehicles pdf document. A similar project, providing hydrogen for vehicles at the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, can be seen in the Hydrogen for Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Vehicles section of our website. For general information about our hydrogen and transportation research activities, see the Hydrogen and Transportation research areas of our website.


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Hydrogen

During this century, the United States is expected to undergo a transition to a sustainable energy economy. Hydrogen has long been considered the ultimate energy carrier, a versatile fuel that converts easily and efficiently to other energy forms without the release of harmful emissions. Today, most hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels via thermochemical processes. Although currently cost-effective, the production of hydrogen from fossil fuels results in the release of large quantities of carbon dioxide and will, in the future, be constrained by the availability of feedstock. Successful introduction of hydrogen into the national energy sector is dependent on the continued development of sustainable production and storage technologies as well as the development of essential infrastructure and end-use applications. The view of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is that hydrogen and electricity produced from renewables will form the foundation for sustainable energy systems, displacing and eventually replacing fossil fuel resources.

The Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) is a pioneer in the hydrogen field, with hydrogen research being conducted since 1983. From that beginning work, HNEI continues to conduct research aimed at developing technologies for renewable hydrogen production, and has made significant advancements in biological techniques, gasification of biomass, and the direct solar splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen using photoelectrochemical devices.  In 1990, HNEI hosted the World Hydrogen Energy Conference, which drew 550 specialists from 31 nations. All of these efforts were recognized by the DOE in 1996, when HNEI was designated a University Center of Excellence for Hydrogen Research and Education.

In 2000, HNEI's mandate was broadened when the Hawaii Legislature called for the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism to conduct a feasibility study to assess the potential for large-scale hydrogen use in Hawai‘i, and HNEI was directed to conduct this study. HNEI, in collaboration with Sentech Inc., completed the final report, "Nurturing a Clean Energy Future in Hawaii: Assessing the Feasibility of the Large-Scale Utilization of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in Hawai‘i," in 2001 and revised it in 2004. The study identified areas where hydrogen and fuel cells have the potential to contribute to Hawaii's energy mix and developed a roadmap to develop this potential. One of the recommendations of the study was the creation of public-private partnerships to begin installation of the necessary hydrogen infrastructure.

In later developments, HNEI has been intimately involved in developing public-private partnerships to move forward with the development of hydrogen infrastructure in Hawaii, as recommended by the earlier study. Significant progress has been made in identifying projects and partnerships for achieving this goal. When DOE selected the Hawaii State Energy Office to develop a roadmap for development of hydrogen infrastructure in the state, HNEI then became the implementing partner for development of the Hawaii Hydrogen Power Park. This project involves the deployment and demonstration of an integrated hydrogen system with electrolytic hydrogen production, hydrogen storage, and use of hydrogen in a grid-connected fuel cell. HNEI is continuing its efforts to develop large-scale hydrogen and distributed energy demonstration projects. Much of this work is focused on the Big Island of Hawai‘i and on Oahu.  Included are hydrogen fueling facilities for specialized vehicles and use of hydrogen for grid management – see the various sections of our website listed below.

Separately, with funding from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and other sources, HNEI has a significant program focused on the development and testing of fuel cells, using hydrogen as the fuel. In 2003, the facility, initially known as the Hawaii Fuel Cell Test Facility began operations. Subsequently, this facility benefited from continued funding from ONR and additional support from the US Department of Energy and other private sources. In 2012, to reflect this expanding partnership and the growing capabilities of the fuel cell test facility, it was renamed as the Hawaii Sustainable Energy Research Facility (HiSERF).  For further information on activities at the HiSERF, see the section on Fuel Cell Testing.

Specific research and project areas are the following items.  Clicking on each provides activity details.

Related Information

For other HNEI research and development activities related to the hydrogen efforts, please refer to the Fuel Cells, Grid Systems, and Transportation sections of our website. 

 

 

 


Richard E. Rocheleau

HNEI Director
Richard E.
Rocheleau
Richard E. Rocheleau
Address: 

Hawaii Natural Energy Institute
School of Ocean And Earth Science And Technology
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Phone: 
(808) 956-8346
Fax: 
(808) 956-2336
Email: 

PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES
Member, AIChE, Materials Research Society, International Association for Hydrogen Energy, Electrochemical Society

PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS
Research interests include the development of novel vapor deposition techniques for production of thin film solar cells and sensors, development of cost-effective technologies for renewable hydrogen production, and the testing and development of high performance fuel cells for military and civilian applications. Specific projects have included development of copper- indium-diselenide solar cells on light weight flexible substrates, development of processes for photoelectrochemical hydrogen production, and development of hydrogen fuel purity guidelines for fuel cell application.

University of Hawaii Information: 

Director, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, Jan. 2002 - present
Interim Director, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, Dec. 1999 - Jan. 2002
Acting Director, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, Sept. 1998 - Dec. 1998
Researcher, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, 1997 -1999
Graduate Faculty, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 1992 -
Graduate Faculty, Department of Electrical Engineering, 1989 -
Associate Researcher, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, 1988 - 1997

Other Professional: 

Manager, Institute of Energy Conversion (IEC), Reactor Design and Analysis Group, University of Delaware, 1986 -1988
Engineer, Institute of Energy Conversion, University of Delaware, 1980 - 1986
Research Assistant, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware, 1977-1980
Research Assistant, Department of Ocean Engineering, University of Hawaii, 1975 - 1977
Engineer, Mobil Research and Development Corp., Paulsboro, NJ., 1973 - 1975

Education: 

Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware, 1980
Modeling and design of a chemical reactor for continuous deposition of CdS thin-film
semiconductors for photovoltaic applications
MS., Ocean Engineering, University of Hawaii, 1977
BS., Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware, 1973 with Honors and Distinction
Awarded Outstanding Graduate from the College of Engineering
 

Selected Publications: 

Over 25 publications in peer reviewed journals and over 20 conference proceedings in the areas of photovoltaics, photoelectrochemical hydrogen production, and thin-film electronic materials. Six patents and three patent disclosures.

Hihara, L.H., A. Iwane, S. Voss, R.E. Rocheleau, and Z.E. Zhang. 1998. Initiation of Corrosion in Metal Substrates Coated with Plasma-Deposited Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon Alloy Thin Films. Corrosion Science

Rocheleau, R.E., E.L. Miller, and A. Misra. 1998. High-Efficiency Photoelectrochemical Hydrogen Production Using Multijunction Amorphous Silicon Photoelectrodes. Energy and Fuels 12:3-10.

Rocheleau, R.E., and E.L. Miller. 1997. Photoelectrochemical Production of Hydrogen: Engineering Loss Analysis. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 22:771-782.

Rocheleau, R.E., M. Tun, and S. Hegedus. 1997. Analysis and Optimization of High-Efficiency Multijunction a- Si:H Solar Cells. In Proceedings of 26th IEEE PV Specialists Conference. New York: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Sharfarman, W.N., B.M. Basol, J.S. Britt, R.B. Hall, and R.E. Rocheleau. 1997. Semiconductor Processing and Manufacturing. Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications 5:359-364.

Miller, E.L., and R.E. Rocheleau. 1997. Electrochemical Behavior of Reactively Sputtered Iron-Doped Nickel Oxide. Journal of the Electrochemical Society 144:3072-3077.

Miller, E.L., and R.E. Rocheleau. 1997. Opto-Electronic and Electrochemical Properties of Sputter-Deposited NiOx Thin-Film Catalysts. Journal of the Electrochemical Society 144:1995-2003.

Rocheleau, R.E., E.L. Miller, A. Misra, and S. Song. 1996. Hydrogen Production Using Multijunction Amorphous Silicon Photoelectrodes. In Hydrogen Energy Progress XI. Edited by T.N. Veziroglu, C.J. Winter, J.P. Baselt, and G. Kreysa. Schon & Wetzel GnibH 3:2755-2760.

Rocheleau, R.E., and M. Vierthaler. 1994. Optimization of Multijunction a-Si:H Solar Cells Using an Integrated Optical/Electrical Model. In Proceedings of the 21st World Conference on Photovoltaic Energy Conversion. New York: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
 

Additional Publications: 
Richard Rocheleau
Other: 

RECENT GRANTS AND AWARDS
Principal Investigator or co-Principal Investigator on over $10 million of extramurally funded research in photovoltaics, hdyrogen technologies, and fuel cells.

US Department of Energy, "Hawaii Hydrogen Center for the Development an Deployment of Distributed Energy Technologies. Sept 2004 -

Office of Naval Research "Hawaii Energy & Environmental Technology Initiative" June 2001 -

Triton Systems " CIGS Solar Cell Fabrication and Testing" Jan 2004 -
Trex Corporation, "Photoconductor on Active Pixel Image Sensors" August 1998 - June 2000

National Defense Center of Excellence for Research in Ocean Sciences through Sea Engineering. "Development of an Ultra-High Resolution Stress Detection System for Marine Applications. November 1998 - October 2000.


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