Next Steps for Hydrogen - physics, technology and the future

Nuttall, William; Glowacki, Bartek and Krishnamurthy, Satheesh (2016). Next Steps for Hydrogen - physics, technology and the future. Institute of Physics, London.



Hydrogen has been proposed as a future energy carrier for more than 40 years. In recent decades, impetus has been given by the need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. In addition, hydrogen has the potential to facilitate the large-scale deployment of variable renewables in the electricity system. Despite such drivers, the long-anticipated hydrogen economy is proving to be slow to emerge. This report stresses the role that physics and physics-based technology could play in accelerating the large-scale deployment of hydrogen in the energy system.

Emphasis is given to the potential of cryogenic liquid hydrogen and the opportunities afforded by developments in nanoscience for hydrogen storage and use. The use of low-temperature liquid hydrogen opens up a technological opportunity separate from, but complementary with, energy applications. The new opportunity is the ability to cool novel materials into the superconducting state without the need to use significant quantities of expensive liquid helium. Two of the authors have previously coined the term “hydrogen cryomagnetics” for when liquid hydrogen is utilised in high-field and high-efficiency magnets. The opportunity for liquid hydrogen to displace liquid helium may be a relatively small business opportunity compared to global transport energy
demands, but it potentially affords an opportunity to kick-start the wider commercial use of hydrogen.

The report considers various important factors shaping the future for hydrogen, such as competing production methods and the importance of safety, but throughout it is clear that science and engineering are of central importance to hydrogen innovation and physics has an important role to play.

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