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Cablegate: Hydrosol: An Opportunity to Collaborate With

VZCZCXRO8760
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHLZ
DE RUEHRL #1241/01 2531610
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 091610Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2127
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BERLIN 001241

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS
STATE FOR OES FENDLEY
STATE FOR CE
STATE FOR COMMERCE
WHITE HOUSE FOR CEQ, NSC
ENERGY FOR EERE PLEASE PASS TO NSP JENNIFER PEARL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG TRGY TSPL TNGD SENV GM
SUBJECT: HYDROSOL: AN OPPORTUNITY TO COLLABORATE WITH
GERMANY ON HYDROGEN

1. (U) Summary and Comment: The German Space Agency (DLR)
has, in conjunction with the International Energy Agency's
solar-thermal energy cooperative "SolarPACES", developed an
efficient carbon dioxide (CO2)-free method of harvesting
hydrogen from water. Named "HYDROSOL", this is an
interesting innovation that could bridge key challenges in
support of USG efforts to develop a hydrogen economy.
Although the HYDROSOL project is only one of many worldwide
efforts (including at Sandia National Laboratories) to
harvest hydrogen, it appears to stand apart from the rest
with its impressive demonstrated efficiency and absence of
CO2 emissions or harsh chemical byproducts. The HYDROSOL
concept has since evolved into the HYDROSOL-2 project and
recent agreements have opened the door for U.S. companies to
collaborate. This award-winning technology was recognized by
the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy
(IPHE--of which the U.S. is a partner) in 2006 for its
significant potential for large-scale, sustainable, emissions
free hydrogen production. If the relevant US-EU intellectual
property concerns can be resolved, HYDROSOL-2 may offer US
researchers working on hydrogen an opportunity to collaborate
with Germany on a promising new technology. End Summary and
Comment.

HOW IT WORKS: SEPARATING WATER WITH SUNLIGHT
--------------------------------------------

2. (U) HYDROSOL uses a two-stage thermochemical process that
first releases hydrogen from water by adsorbing the oxygen
into an oxygen-deficient ferrite structure (the reactor core)
at superheated temperatures. When the reactor core is
saturated with oxygen, additional energy is provided and the
oxygen is re-released. The catalytic energy for these two
reactions is derived entirely from concentrated solar
radiation. Using two identical reactor cores housed in
separate chambers of a solar concentrator, the two stages are
operated simultaneously (i.e. while one reactor core is
adsorbing oxygen from water, the other is depleting its
oxygen). The functions of the two reactor cores are
continuously swapped, ensuring that hydrogen is produced
continuously and not in batches. According to project
coordinator Athanasios Konstandopoulos, Director of the
Chemical Processes Engineering Research Institute/CERTH based
in Thessaloniki, Greece, each HYDROSOL-2 reactor will produce
around three kilograms of hydrogen per hour; at hydrogen's
energy density, this is theoretically equivalent to a power
output of 119 kilowatt-hours.

HYDROSOL BACKGROUND: AWARDS, BUT IPR CONCERNS WITH U.S.
--------------------------------------------- ----------

3. (SBU) By April 2008, the entire HYDROSOL project had
spent seven million euros, half of which came from the
European Union's 5th and 6th European Research Framework
Programs. According to Christian Sattler, DLR Research Area
Manager for Solar Materials Conversion, the USG was not
invited as a project partner due to concerns about
intellectual property (IP) rights between the E.U. and U.S.
The HYDROSOL consortium currently includes research teams
from Germany, Spain, and Greece, as well as industrial
partners Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells (UK) and Stobbe Tech
Ceramics (Denmark). The project won the European
Commission's 2006 Descartes Prize for scientific research,
the 2005 International Global 100 Ecotech Award at the EXPO
in Japan, and the IPHE Technical Achievement Award in 2006.

COST ANALYSIS: PRICE COMPETITIVE WITH OIL?
------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) According to Sattler, a DLR model (reportedly
validated by the US Department of Energy--DOE) predicts that
it will cost between two and five dollars to produce one kg
of hydrogen (using scaled HYDROSOL technology), correlating
with an equivalent energy value of $40 to $100 per barrel of
oil. (Comment: These calculations do not include costs
associated with the transportation or storage of hydrogen,
which could be enormous. End Comment) Sattler noted that the
dominant cost for the HYDROSOL project is the establishment
of the infrastructure for a large scale operation. He added
that once the infrastructure investment is made, the longer
the reactor runs and the more economically viable it becomes.

SIMILAR RESEARCH IN THE U.S.
----------------------------

BERLIN 00001241 002 OF 002

5. (SBU) The U.S. has also conducted a substantial amount of
research in the area of thermochemical production of hydrogen
from water with a variety of catalytic processes. Similar in
concept to the HYDROSOL reactor, researchers at Sandia
National Laboratories in New Mexico designed a reactor that
uses cobalt ferrite rings as the catalyst. Presently, Sandia
researchers have embarked on a project called "Sunshine to
Petrol", which utilizes the aforementioned reactor design to
synthetically produce methanol (a hydrocarbon used for
transportation fuel). Like HYDROSOL, this reactor design is
used to harvest hydrogen. However, in a parallel process it
also removes oxygen from carbon dioxide to collect carbon
monoxide. The harvested carbon monoxide and hydrogen are
then synthesized together using industrial processes to
create methanol. The aim of this project is to produce
methanol as a fuel in a nearly carbon neutral fashion.

THE ROAD FORWARD
----------------

6. (SBU) Given the parallel advances in CO2-free hydrogen
harvesting techniques demonstrated by Sandia National
Laboratories and the HYDROSOL project, it appears as though
there may be room for future technical exchange or
cooperation. Sattler said improvements in scientific
research exchanges between the U.S. and E.U. have opened the
door for HYDROSOL cooperation with many U.S. companies.
According to Sattler, a big reason for this is the IPHE,
coordinated by Professor Al Weimer of the University of
Colorado (Boulder), which DLR joined in 2005. Sattler said
DLR continues to investigate ways to foster collaboration
with the U.S. DOE and specifically mentioned the SolarPACES
group as an excellent avenue for future collaboration.
TIMKEN JR

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