Federal grant fuels hydrogen research

A $912,000 federal grant won by USF’s chemistry department could bring the country one step closer to realizing President George Bush’s vision of a hydrogen-based economy.

The goal of the grant – awarded Aug. 15 – is to find a way to effectively store hydrogen, said Mohamed Eddadoui, one of the principal researchers on the project.

“(It would) meet a critical need in moving away from petroleum into a clean, hydrogen-based energy economy,” Eddaoudi said.

The hydrogen fuels market is expected to have a market value of $1.8 billion by the end of 2008, he said.

Mike Zaworotko and Brian Space have joined Eddaoudi on the three-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Office of Science.

One factor preventing the use of hydrogen as fuel is that it’s hard to store adequate amounts in a form suitable for large-scale use in automobiles.

“(Hydrogen storage) could be the key to making the hydrogen economy a major part of our energy future, since hydrogen storage is the major technological hurdle that is preventing the implementation of hydrogen fuel cells for energy and transportation,” Zawarotko said.

Bush’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative aims to curtail the country’s reliance on foreign oil by developing the technology needed for commercially viable hydrogen-powered fuel cells, according to the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Web site. Harriet Kung, an associate director for basic energy sciences with the DOE, said hydrogen storage was one of the key barriers to realizing a full-scale hydrogen economy.

“Hydrogen would allow consumers to drive 300 miles or more without re-fueling their car,” she said.

USF’s project addresses that challenge through the development of Metal Organic Framework Materials, or MOFs.

MOFs are a new class of porous materials that can be designed and synthesized to work as better catalysts for chemical reactions and allow greater storage of hydrogen fuel, which would help eliminate greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The grant money will primarily be used to fund the work of graduate students, who are already actively collaborating as part of the team performing the research, Space said. The entire team gathers every Saturday morning to discuss the latest research progress and plan future studies.

USF is one of 13 institutions nationwide that won funding from the DOE for this research. The other 12 projects are housed at laboratories and universities, including Rutgers and Ohio State.