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ARPA-E Is MOVEing Beyond CNG

March 22, 2014 in CNG, NGVs, Technology by Rich Piellisch  |  No Comments

Agency Seeks Basically Better Ways to Handle Natural Gas,
More Than $10 Million for Ford-BASF and BlackPak Projects

The federal government continues to support research to further the use of natural gas vehicles, targeting low pressure onboard vehicle storage techniques as a way to reduce costs related to today’s high pressure tanks, freeing vehicle designers from the constraints imposed by heavy, bulky (and expensive) CNG cylinders.

Luggage, anyone?

Luggage, anyone?

Ford has recently been designated for $5.05 million from DoE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy for fuel vessels using advanced high-capacity covalent and metal-organic framework (MOF) materials from BASF, while San Francisco-based BlackPak is to receive $5.475 million for a sorbent-based natural gas tank.

Both are part of MOVE – ARPA-E’s Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy program.

‘Large, Cumbersome, and Expensive’

“Today’s natural gas vehicles are fitted with on-board fuel tanks that are too large, cumbersome, and expensive to properly facilitate the widespread adoption of natural gas vehicles,” states a summary of the Ford-BASF work. “Additionally, the low volumetric density of natural gas – roughly 30% less energy by volume than gasoline – limits the driving range of natural gas vehicles and makes cost-effective storage solutions a significant challenge.”

Ford and partners hope to optimize porous MOF materials to reduce the pressure of on-board tanks while delivering the driving range customers want. The porous material “allows more gas to be stored inside a tank by utilizing a surface energy attraction to the natural gas.

“These materials would be efficiently and cost-effectively integrated into a natural gas vehicle system that will promote and contribute to the widespread use of natural gas vehicles,” ARPA-E says.

The challenge: getting the gas out of the MOF storage vessel.

BlackPak Builds on SRI Work

San Francisco’s BlackPak and partners seek to leverage adsorbed natural gas storage technology from Silicon Valley’s SRI International to produce a 500-psi natural gas tank.

BlackPak-logo“Based on advances in engineered nano-porous materials, the technology enables natural gas to be stored in containers that come in a variety of shapes, sizes and configurations,” the company says.

“This will allow vehicle designers and equipment manufacturers the ability to integrate natural gas systems that conform to the available spaces in light duty vehicles while maintaining maximum functional utility in the form of usable trunk space.”

‘The Sorbent Itself Is the Container’

“Blackpak will use high-strength, high-surface-area carbon to develop a sorbent-based natural gas storage vessel in which the sorbent itself is the container, eliminating the external pressure vessel altogether,” ARPA-E says.

BlackPak notes that an effective low-pressure fuel tank will “simplify the requirements for tank filling appliances, further improving the comparative economics of adsorbed natural gas systems relative to compressed natural gas, gasoline, and diesel.”

BlackPak describes itself as a private technology company co-founded by ATMI, InnerProduct Partners, and SRI International.

Among other awardees of substantial ARPE-E funding for better NGV fuel storage are UTRC (the United Technologies Research Center), Texas A&M University, and the Gas Technology Institute.

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Source: ARPA-E with Fleets & Fuels follow-up

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