Doctorate in Applied and Engineering Physics  

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Thesis Proposal for the

Doctorate Program in Applied and Engineering Physics (DAEPHYS)

Starting in the Academic Year 2016/2017


Proposal 021


Title:System for storage of hydrogen as an energy carrier
 
Objectives (recommended length: 2000-3000 char):
The main objective is to build a model automated hydrogen storage unit that may serve as a pre-competitive demonstration of the basic technology. The emerging technology of the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier will have market space for a lot of small enterprises installing and taking care of micro-plants for stationary applications. The work around this project enables the student with the basics of part of the technology involved, and the capacity of contributing to the teamwork needed for the inclusion of this hydrogen storage tank in the chain from a renewable energy source, production and storage of hydrogen, up to its use to produce electric power with fuel cells.
The tasks leading to the main objective are planned around the following partial objectives:
1 – Synthesis of an intermetallic alloy of the family AB2 structure based on modifications of the Ti(V,Cr) system, of known high capacity and good kinetics of hydrogen absorption and desorption. The first batches of the alloy serve to the acquaintance of the details of its hydriding properties, including heat and mass (hydrogen) flows in small samples.
2 – Study of the influence of cycling on the hydrogen absorption capacity and thermodynamic properties of the synthesised alloy. This is an essential parameter for the technology, as it defines the effective life-time of the hydride bed and thus informs of one of the basic parameters pointing to the periodicity of major maintenance of a tank.
3 – Study of the macroscopic changes of volume, porosity and agglomeration of the synthesised alloy as it is charged and discharged with hydrogen. This study will give valuable information regarding the spatial distribution and amount of hydride inside the volume of the tank to be taken into account in the simulations of the next objective.
4 – Optimisation of flow conditions and space distribution of a hydride bed of up to 1 kg of alloy inside a model tank, using simulations based on the properties of the hydrides studied in the previous tasks.
5 – Design and manufacture of the model tank including the installation of systems to monitor pressure, temperature and stresses on the walls.
6 – Preparation of a larger quantity of the alloy (~1 kg) to fill the tank.
7 – Experimental tests of the performance of the storage tank system.
 
Framework (recommended length: 500-2000 char):
As the pursuit for carbon-free energy sources continues, with incentives for installation of renewable energy plants and for operation of electric cars, hydrogen is occupying an important niche in the energy economy scenario as a reliable energy carrier.
One of the key issues for the reliable use of hydrogen is storage technology. Among other routes for hydrogen storage, solid materials with high hydrogen storage capacity have been studied and developed, from intermetallic compounds of various structures to lighter nanostructured materials. Current lighter materials have either a relatively low capacity or need high temperature or pressure for proper cycling. The intermetallic compounds have good performance parameters, with working temperature and pressure ranges well controlled by composition or stoichiometry changes. Their densities are a limitation for automotive applications but not for stationary applications related e.g. to micro-generation plants.
For practical applications, all solid materials have to be confined in suitable storage tanks. As the hydrogen energy market approaches, technology is being developed regarding the optimization of working conditions of the tanks.
 
Tasks (recommended length: 1000-3000 char):
The tasks planned for this project are aimed at the secondary objectives enumerated above and involve the following work and methodology:
1 – Intermetallic alloy: The literature on intermetallic hydrides provides enough information for the choice of an alloy suitable for our purpose. Based on the synthesis by arc-melting of the basic chosen binary alloy, the final alloy will be achieved by dissolving the minority components in the amounts previously chosen. X-ray diffraction, electron microscopy and compositional microprobe analysis will be performed in order to check the crystalline structure and homogeneity, looking for eventual phase separations or segregation of elements. If needed, annealing procedures at high temperature and vacuum may homogenise the structure. Hydrogen absorption/desorption isotherms will be measured in the Sieverts apparatus in operation at the Physics Department of the U.C. at different temperatures to characterize the hydriding properties, such as the maximum and the useful hydrogen concentration, the plateau quality, and the enthalpy of the hydriding reaction.
2 – Study of the influence of cycling on the hydrogen absorption capacity and thermodynamic properties of the synthesised alloy. This study will be performed using the automated cycling system in operation at the Physics Department of the U.C., capable of cycling an alloy through thousands of hydriding/dehydriding cycles, with the additional possibility of studying the thermodynamic parameters on a given point of the life time by measuring absorption/desorption isotherms at different temperatures. This system was built and tested during a PhD thesis on this subject defended in January 2016.
3 – Study of the macroscopic changes of volume, porosity and agglomeration of the synthesised alloy as it is charged and discharged with hydrogen. This study will be performed using the dilation capacitive chamber system in operation at the Physics Department of the U.C. This system was built, calibrated and tested during a PhD thesis on this subject defended in January 2016.
4 – Optimisation of flow conditions and space distribution of a hydride bed of up to 1 kg of alloy inside a model tank. This will be achieved through simulations run on commercial finite elements codes, based on the properties of the hydrides studied in the previous tasks.
5 – Design and manufacture of the model tank including the installation of systems to monitor pressure, temperature and stresses on the walls. Additionally, the automation of the tank is essential for any real application. Therefore, we envisage to include systems to control the temperature and pressure in the tank, and using heating and cooling devices and controllable electro valves.
6 – Preparation of a larger quantity of the alloy (~1 kg) to fill the tank according to the design of the previous task.
7 – Experimental tests of the performance of the storage tank system and its automation.
 
Research centre/lab or R&D unit hosting the thesis project:
CFisUC, Department of Physics, University of Coimbra
 
University to which the thesis project will be presented:
UC - Universidade de Coimbra
 
DAEPHYS Scientific Domain in which the project fits:
Enabling technologies
 
Relation of the project to the Scientific Domains of DAEPHYS:
The primary goal of this project is the local consolidation of a scientific base and high-level training of manpower for the support of Portuguese enterprises that in the next future will work on energy storage technologies related to hydrogen storage. At the end of the project, we envisage to have built a model automated hydrogen storage unit that may serve as a pre-competitive demonstration of the basic technology, to be later included in an integrated system with a fuel cell.
 
Candidate profile:
MSc in Physical Engineering, Physics or similar degrees compatible with the planned tasks. Preference for candidates with experience in any of the techniques and fields described in the tasks and objectives of the project.
 
Does this proposal involve more than one University?:
no
 
Synergies between the two Universities participating in the proposal:
DAEPHYS strongly encourages the presentation of thesis projects in co-supervision by researchers from two of the universities participating in the Program. In this field, explain the benefits resulting from the proposed co-supervision and the involvement of elements from the two universities, e.g. building critical mass teams, profiting from existing infrastructures or advanced equipments, profiting from expert technical know-how, etc. If the proposal involves only one University, write n/a.
(recommended length: 500-1000 char)
:
 
Does this proposal involve a company?:
no
 
Proposals involving a company:
DAEPHYS strongly encourages the presentation of thesis projects involving a company, preferably a high-tech company. These proposals have to: 1) be centered on a technological problem in which the partner company has been (or plan / would like to be) involved; 2) have a co-supervisor on the enterprise; 3) include part of the project to be carried out in the company.
(recommended length: 500-1000 char)
:

 

Supervisor

Name:João Manuel de Sá Campos Gil
Institution:Departamento de Física U.C.
email:jmgil@fis.uc.pt
 
link to CV or indication of ORCID ID:
http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5953-8249

 

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