Hydrogen storage

New £4.7m professorship boosts hydrogen expertise and research strength at the University of Nottingham

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

A team of experts that will enhance the University of Nottingham’s research strength in green hydrogen technologies is being established as part of a £4.7m professorship.

The Leverhulme International Professorship will see Dr Martin Dornheim, an internationally-recognised scientist in the field of hydrogen technology with a special focus on hydrogen storage and compression, join the university’s Energy Institute in September.

Hydrogen technologies will play a key part in enabling the UK to meet the 2050 net-zero emissions target, with green hydrogen expected to replace coal, oil, and fossil gas in industries including steel production and key areas of transport.

Storage of hydrogen at medium or small scale remains a challenge, as it has a much lower volumetric energy density than our current liquid fuels. High densification of the gas is required to achieve a sufficiently high volumetric energy density and the processes used to achieve this are energy demanding and expensive.

Overcoming challenges

Research by Dr Dornheim, who joins Nottingham from his current position as Head of the Department of Materials Design at the Institute of Hydrogen Technology at Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon in Germany, aims to overcome these obstacles to pave the way for a new, green, hydrogen economy.

The award will see Dr Dornheim recruit a team of researchers and PhD students to undertake research over a period of five years, focused on the development of novel materials for hydrogen storage and compression, compressors, and complete storage systems.

In recent years the class of known hydrogen containing materials, hydrides and complex hydrides, has grown significantly. Most of these new materials have not yet been fully characterised. Initial experiments reveal that many of these new materials show unique properties for hydrogen storage, as well as for many other energy related application fields like hydrogen compression and battery applications.

By using a new approach to design hydrogen storage materials we are able to optimize both the hydrogen storage capacity as well as the hydrogen uptake and release time of such materials. This will allow the development of novel high density hydrogen stores.
Dr Martin Dornheim

A particular focus of Dr Dornheim’s work is on so-called Reactive Hydride Composites. In this approach, hydrides are destabilised with very high hydrogen densities. They would otherwise be too stable to be used in reversible hydrogen storage. If successful, this process could double, or even triple, the gravimetric storage density and therefore, the amount of hydrogen that can be stored and used.

These materials are currently among the most promising in efforts to improve current hydrogen storage technologies.

As part of his research Dr Dornheim will be developing a one-of-a-kind Sieverts apparatus, used for measuring the thermodynamics of hydrogen sorption onto metal samples, to enable the synthesis and testing of novel hydride and composites for future hydrogen compressors that will allow hydrogen release at pressures beyond 850 bar. This will be part of a suite of testing equipment that will be used to develop and test key new materials for hydrogen storage.

The university has an international reputation in hydrogen storage and we are delighted to welcome and support Martin Dornheim, who has world-wide recognised expertise in this field.
Professor David Grant, Director of the University of Nottingham Energy Institute

He added: "This exciting Leverhulme project’s challenge is to deliver the next step change in hydride-based energy storage, and we are excited to support him in this ambitious program. If successful this will revolutionise the use of solid-state hydrogen stores for many applications being able to store hydrogen at high capacities, low pressures, and low volumes or to utilise the hydrides to compress gas efficiently.”

The work undertaken by Dr Dornheim and his team will add to an already impressive portfolio of hydrogen research taking place within the University of Nottingham Energy Institute and has been made possible by the Leverhulme Trust. The Trust was established in 1925 to provide scholarships for research and education and the International Professorship aims to maintain the UK’s international standing as a desirable research destination, open to talented individuals from all countries.

Emma Thorne - Head of News
Phone: 0115 846 8092

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

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