H2 has the highest energy per mass of any fuel, but it has a low density
at ambient temperature, making compression necessary for automotive
utility. CGH2 tank technology is mature and well established in terms of
engineering considerations. Current research is focused on optimising
parameters such as pressure, weight, volume and cost to make the
technology attractive. In addition, current CGH2 tank manufacturing
capabilities cannot meet the large-scale production requirements of the
Cost is largely linked to the cost of the carbon fibres used for composite reinforcement in the tanks. Decreasing costs must be balanced against required high pressure and safety constraints that currently dictate thickness specifications. With EU support of the project COPERNIC
(Cost & performances improvement for CGH2 composite tanks), scientists are improving composite quality while increasing manufacturing productivity for enhanced performance at a lower cost. They are targeting a full-scale demonstration of a pilot manufacturing line together with a technoeconomic analysis.
Researchers have obtained improved materials samples and are currently testing them for physicochemical parameters, mechanical properties and processability. In addition, the team conducted a survey of state-of-the-art structural health monitoring technology and has defined the diagnostic strategy to be pursued. The goal is to quantify the potential and limitations of embedded optical fibre strain transducers to monitor the integrity of the high-pressure tanks.
Scientists are also optimising the filament winding fabrication technique commonly used to produce composite pressure vessels or tanks with a focus on speed and quality. Certain enhancements are currently being evaluated in the pilot line. Multiscale models based on the composite architecture and materials associated with the reference tank are being used to optimise designs and composite formulations. Several reference tanks have been manufactured and characterised. Finally, in preparation for assessment of the new technologies, test protocols and criteria have been defined.
COPERNIC scientists plan to significantly reduce the cost of CGH2 tanks while enhancing their performance via innovative materials, architectures and manufacturing solutions. Encouraging market uptake of fuel cells for automotive applications will have important benefits for the EU economy, consumers and the environment.