Cleaner air, cleaner water, reduced global warming and climate change effects, overall healthier environment and economic sustainability – all of these are very attainable benefits of widespread utilization of hydrogen technologies. Those, however, still face important cost and technical challenges, which can only be met through sustained research and development activities. Because of its low density, the volumetric and gravimetric storage of hydrogen must be improved to meet the challenging constraints required by the automotive industry for its use as a transportation fuel. Hydrogen, as an energy vector, has to be produced and distributed at high efficiency and low cost, and with an adequate quality for fuel cell applications. Like any other fuel, it must have its support infrastructure that meets appropriate safety requirements and receives public acceptance. Hydrogen specific properties, however, must be taken into account in establishing regulations, codes and standards. This involves a better understanding of the flow and combustion dynamics of hydrogen, as well as of the safety and durability of the advanced materials used in hydrogen systems.
The Hydrogen Canada Strategic Research Network (H2CAN) is truly pan-Canadian, grouping 26 leading researchers including six NSERC chair holders, from 13 universities and four NRC institutes and one CanMet laboratory located in seven different provinces. The network includes internationally recognized scientists whose activities cover all aspects of the scientific programme. The research activities are divided into three themes, Production and Purification, Storage, and Infrastructure and Safety.
In 2008, NSERC awarded $5 million in research funds to H2CAN for five years. This amount is leveraged at a ratio of 4:1 through related R&D activities by network researchers and facilities currently available at participating institutions. Total industrial partner contributions represent 50 percent of the overall network budget, while pledged cash contributions represent 35 percent of the partner contributions.
The network will strive to address both the short term goals of the industry (lowering costs by improving the current technology) and its long term goals (technology innovation: development of new processes and new materials). It proposes a systems approach to hydrogen energy technologies.
The objectives of this network is to overcome the technical barriers to the introduction of hydrogen energy technologies by:
The Network will help Canada maintaining a global leadership in a core technology of the 21st century by generating a critical mass in terms of resources, effort and competencies to address and resolve some of the remaining technical barriers to the introduction and commercialization of hydrogen energy technologies.
The training of highly qualified people (HQPs) is one of the most important activities of the network, with approximately 65 percent of the network grant funding aimed at supporting HQPs. Through research activities, including the internship programme of the Network, these investments will result in the training of future scientists and engineers to shape the future of hydrogen technologies.