The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) is actively participating in a newly funded Horizon Europe project with a focus on hydrogen storage, specifically targeting the development of high-pressure vessels for the transportation and mobility sector. Aligned with the long-term vision of hydrogen contributing to 24% of Europe's energy needs by 2050, the ECOHYDRO (Economic Manufacturing Process of Recyclable Composite Materials for Durable Hydrogen Tanks) project will address the increasing demand for efficient storage solutions.
“There is pressing demand for substantial storage solutions at various points in the energy production and consumption chain,” says Henri Perrin, who leads the Manufacturing of Advanced Composites group at the Materials Department of LIST. Perrin is also the principal investigator for the project. “We also need efficient transportation methods between the production and end-use phases.” It is expected that by the year 2050 there will be a need for storage tanks with a lifespan ranging from three to 15 years, given that experts foresee widespread adoption of hydrogen in various transportation applications, particularly for mobility. There is thus a clear requirement for advancements in storage technologies for hydrogen and its derivatives and to establish them as genuinely sustainable energy carriers. ECOHYDRO’s objective, Perrin explains, is to demonstrate that more hydrogen can be carried in tube trailers or trucks at higher pressures and at a reduced cost.
“The current solutions with smaller tanks do not meet the cost goals. Within the project, we'll study scaling up in a lab model and explore the feasibility of moving to a large industrial scale. Also, try to prove that we can store more hydrogen and transport it safely in heavy-duty trucks with lighter, more efficient tanks,” he added.
ECOHYDRO is a concerted effort between 15 academic and industrial players from Europe and coordinated by IMT (Institut Mines-Télécom) Nord Europe. LIST plays a significant role in the project, specifically in the construction of the hydrogen storage tank.
“The ECOHYDRO project is introducing an innovative approach that involves in-situ photopolymerization (a process which uses light to turn a liquid resin into a solid form by initiating a chemical reaction) during the winding process. The result is an almost ready-to-use tank immediately after winding, eliminating the need for a separate curing step,” explains Perrin.
LIST is contributing to the upscaling of this technology by offering thermal and mechanical modelling up to full scale. Furthermore, it is showcasing the unique functionalities of the sustainable resin provided by Arkema, a leader in specialty materials and an industrial partner of the project. This is being achieved through the development of the reparability process, the enhancement of self-healing ability, and the facilitation of multi-material assembly and post-forming of the produced cylindrical vessel.
“Overcoming such scientific and technical challenges streamlines the overall process, leading to reduced production costs and enhanced efficiency of the final product,” says Henri Perrin. “The key breakthroughs in this approach are twofold. First, we eliminate a costly production step, making the process more economically viable. Second, we implement a recyclable resin system, opting for a thermoplastic rather than a thermoset. This not only improves the sustainability of the process but also contributes to a more energy-efficient and eco-friendly approach,” he concludes.
The initiative, which aligns perfectly with LIST’s ambition to develop technologies targeting recyclable hydrogen tank, kicks off officially in February, and will receive almost Euros 10 million in funding over the next four years, with a very significant part for Luxembourg partners.
H³ Luxembourg, a member of the Haesaerts Group and European leader in chemical tank transport, is one such partner. Talking about the collaboration with LIST, Luc Haesaerts, Ceo of H³ Luxembourg, said, “We are excited to collaborate with LIST in the ECOHYDRO project, leveraging their expertise in composites. As a Luxemburgish company dedicated to advancing efficient Hydrogen logistics across Europe, we recognize that our partnership enriches our journey.” Simultaneously, Dr Levent Kirkayak, Head of Structural Composites Unit of LIST Materials Department, emphasizes that ECOHYDRO not only showcases LIST's commitment to pioneering research in the field of hydrogen technology, but also aligns with the mission of the Sustainable Composite Materials and Manufacturing (SCMM) Innovation Centre.
Damien Lenoble, director of the Materials Department, adds: “We are particularly pleased to witness the outcomes of the strategic initiatives we launched two years ago to further bolster Luxembourg and LIST's impact on European innovations. This serves as an exemplary demonstration of how our research roadmaps in Hydrogen and Sustainable Composite Materials are converging to address one of the most pressing challenges associated with the deployment of the Hydrogen economy: ensuring its safe, secure, and sustainable storage for transportation. The collaboration with our academic partner, IMT Nord Europe, was especially lean and efficient, while the active participation of our Luxembourg partner, CI Logistics, ensures a rapid market testing of the developed solution.”