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Breakthrough in Hydrogen Storage for Fuel Cells

12 September 2000

IMPCO, Lawrence Livermore & Thiokol Team Achieve Breakthrough in Hydrogen Storage for Fuel Cells
    IRVINE, Calif., Sept. 12 IMPCO Technologies, Inc.
announced today that a team of scientists from IMPCO, Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL) and Thiokol Propulsion, Alcoa
Industrial Components Group, a subsidiary of Alcoa Inc.,
successfully hydroburst tested a high performance prototype hydrogen storage
cylinder designed for Fuel Cell Vehicle applications (FCVs) and achieved a
mass performance record of 11.3% hydrogen storage by weight, the highest
storage efficiency ever demonstrated.
    The significance of this achievement means that fuel cell vehicles can now
travel further between refueling intervals (greatly extended range) than
previously thought possible.  On-board direct hydrogen storage is simple,
cost-effective, durable, and safe for automotive use and allows elimination of
on-board fuel reformers, which are expensive, complex, and physically large in
size and generate emissions.  This new compressed hydrogen storage device
allows more efficient storage compared to alternatives such as metal hydrides
(1.5-3% by weight at room temperature) or liquid hydrogen (up to 8% by
weight).
    According to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers, "This
very high cycle life tankage technology is enabling for hydrogen fueled fuel
cell and internal combustion engine vehicles, which demand lightweight gas
storage to achieve attractive driving range.  The tank technology being
developed is being funded by the DOE under a cost shared program with IMPCO
and Thiokol and will be designed for passenger vehicle applications at maximum
operating pressures of 350 Bar with a safety factor of 2.25.  Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory researchers are maximizing the leverage of DOE
funding by adopting and adapting advanced aerospace technologies.  The safe
gaseous hydrogen pressure vessel technology they are developing can reversibly
store more energy per unit mass than any other non-nuclear technology.  This
project is a key part of LLNL's effort to develop high cycle life energy
storage systems with > 600 Wh / kg specific energy for various applications,
including: zero emission vehicles, high altitude solar rechargeable electric
aircraft, spacecraft systems that combine energy storage and propulsion,
remote power sources, and renewable electrical utilities.  This collaboration
between government and industry is solving technical risks at the component
level, pushing the envelope in lightweight tankage, developing
commercializable products with > 90% confidence level (for delivery next
year), and meeting the integration challenges arising on DOE demonstration
vehicles."
    Syed Hussain, Vice President and General Manager of IMPCO's Technology and
Automotive OEM Division said, "This collaborative effort between government
and industry allows for enabling technologies such as these to be developed
with shared risk.  The successful transition from development to mass
production and commercialization is a core competency of IMPCO.  This is a
major achievement in hydrogen storage technologies that will enable Fuel Cell
Vehicles to travel further between refueling than previously thought possible
with near term technologies."