WVU engineer receives $ 1.25 million to power a cleaner future | News, Sports, Jobs


Photo courtesy of WVU Xueyan Song, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at WVU, stands next to a machine that measures the conductivity of ceramics. Song recently received $ 1.25 million for a project to produce more hydrogen gas – a clean fuel – with less electric power consumption.

MORGANTOWN – A recent award of $ 1.25 million to the University of West Virginia will help a project to produce more hydrogen gas – a clean fuel – with less electrical energy consumption.

The clean hydrogen produced can benefit all sectors of society, from household electric power and electric vehicles to industrial land-scale applications, said Xueyen Song, principal investigator of the project and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

The US Department of Energy-funded project supports its Hydrogen Energy Earthshot initiative, which aims to reduce costs and accelerate breakthroughs in the clean hydrogen industry.

Specifically, Song will use a solid oxide electrolyzer, an electrochemical device that converts electrical energy into chemical energy. When the solid oxide electrolyzer is supplied with electricity and steam / water, it produces clean hydrogen gas, Song explained.

“We are focusing on nanotechnology that will allow solid oxide electrolysis cells to produce more hydrogen gas with less consumption of electrical energy” said the song.

A solid oxide electrolysis cell, made of ceramic, has two porous sponge-shaped electrodes sandwiching a dense solid electrolyte. Electrochemical reactions and the production of hydrogen take place in the inner surface of porous electrodes. Song’s team will study the inner surface of the delicate sponge-like ceramic.

“We are designing the coating layer at the nanoscale that could be applied to the inner surface of the porous electrode from the state-of-the-art cells (the cells are not developed at the lab scale) and considerably increase their catalytic power. activity and sustainability ”, said the song. “While this seems like a straightforward technology to meet the challenges facing the entire fuel cell community, it is a very strict and extremely delicate nanoscale material design that is being built based on our vast decades of experience and our deep understanding of nanotechnology. and the atomic structure of ceramics.

The ultimate goal is to increase the production of clean hydrogen, a viable solution to the current climate crisis, added Song.

Hydrogen, when combined with oxygen in a fuel cell, produces electricity with water and heat as byproducts. It can be produced from resources such as natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, and renewables like solar and wind power. According to the DOE, these qualities make it an attractive fuel option and an input for transportation, power generation, and industrial applications, such as trucks, buildings, and manufacturing.

“To make the production of hydrogen using SOEC technology more affordable and accessible for different applications, the cells that are the centerpiece of this technology to perform all the conversion of electrochemical energy should have a production rate of d ‘higher hydrogen, less electricity consumption and ultimately longer device life, “ said the song. “These are the challenges facing the entire fuel cell community around the world.”

The hydrogen produced can also be stored and SOECs can be integrated into intermittent renewable energy systems such as solar and wind, she said.

Song, a materials scientist and faculty member at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources since 2008, has been studying the economics of clean energy and hydrogen for several years.

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