LOHC technology: accelerating the deployment of hydrogen storage and fuel cell electric vehicles
Green hydrogen – hydrogen created using renewable energy sources – is expected to be an important element in a future carbon-neutral economy. However, the transportation and storage of hydrogen is today mainly based on liquid compressed hydrogen, which has to be stored either at extremely high pressures (350-700 bar) or at extremely low temperatures (-253°C). The need for specialised handling and the insufficient infrastructure and refuelling networks for compressed hydrogen represent the main challenges for a more widespread use of hydrogen in the transport sector. Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier (LOHC) technologies provide an effective alternative solution by chemically bonding hydrogen to a stable organic liquid carrier, thereby eliminating the need for compression and making it safer, more practical and more cost-efficient to transport hydrogen using existing conventional fuel networks.
At Umicore, we have launched an incubation and long-term R&D collaboration program focusing on new PGM-based catalyst technologies. The aim is to use LOHCs as a viable alternative to compressed hydrogen in order to accelerate the deployment of green hydrogen and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).
How do LOHCs work?
LOHCs absorb and release hydrogen through chemical reactions. When hydrogen is absorbed into the liquid organic carrier, a hydrogenation catalyst is used. This liquid substance is then stored and conveyed to fuelling stations using regular means of transport at ambient temperature and pressure, making it safer and more cost-efficient. FCEVs can then be fuelled directly and quickly with hydrogen-rich LOHCs. The hydrogen is then released onboard using a dehydrogenation catalyst. Thanks to LOHCs, FCEVs can thus be fuelled easily like conventional vehicles today.
LOHC technology has the potential to offer a great advantage by using existing gasoline and diesel fuelling infrastructure and building on them. It will also enable the transportation of hydrogen at high storage densities. However, the current catalyst system for the dehydrogenation process is not compatible with current FCEVs’ requirements for onboard applications. Therefore, through our long-term R&D collaboration programme with academic and industrial partners we want to focus on the development of new and optimized dehydrogenation catalysts.
Catalysts are not new for Umicore
At Umicore we have been developing catalysts for automotive applications (internal combustion engines and FCEVs) and electrolysis for over 30 years. This longstanding and world-class scientific expertise allows us to develop innovative hydrogenation catalysts for LOHCs. Our technology-leading products are key components in automotive applications found on the road today, and we are present in most of the development platforms of the biggest automotive OEMs. In addition, Umicore is preparing the ground for future growth in the green hydrogen economy with catalysts used in electrolysis and LOHCs.
Sustainability and carbon neutrality are high on the agenda of many governments and of Umicore, where green hydrogen is seen as having strong potential. We are continuing with the development of higher-performance and cost-efficient catalysts for fuel cell vehicles and electrolysis. With the development of catalysts for LOHCs we can now further optimize the transportation and storage of hydrogen and simplify the fuelling of fuel cell cars.
Umicore continues to steer the transition to cleaner mobility, whether by means of hydrogen-based fuel cell vehicles, electric vehicles or cleaner internal combustion engines. We are committed to offering sustainable value to society through materials for a better life.