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TSB funding award for monitoring of composite tanks for hydrogen storage

News International-French

28 Aug 2014

Technology Strategy Board (TSB) funds £430k collaborative research project to develop system for condition monitoring of hydrogen storage tanks for mass transit vehicles.

R-Tech Materials is celebrating the award of funding from the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, under their funding competition on “Unlocking the hydrogen energy market”. The funding award of £300k has been made to a group of partners, led by R-Tech Services Ltd, part of the R-Tech Materials Group for the development of a continuous monitoring system to provide an early warning of any incipient damage in hydrogen storage tanks used in private and commercial vehicles using hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Hydrogen is a renewable energy supply that is returned to its source, water, in the process of generating energy. It does so without carbon or any other harmful emissions and its carbon footprint in the energy generation cycle is lower than that of any other renewable. Therefore, given recent advances in fuel cell technology, it is an attractive and realistic option as a mass market transport fuel. However, to reach such a market, the confidence of both the public and safety regulatory bodies will need to be gained. Specifically, hydrogen tank failure probabilities on vehicles will need to be orders of magnitude less than those in existing industrial hydrogen usage, a major challenge given that transport is a relatively uncontrolled environment. The project aim is to develop a continuous monitoring safety assurance sensor unit for vehicle hydrogen tanks, whose record can be read at each vehicle service. This will greatly reduce failure probabilities, through early detection of hydrogen embrittlement, fatigue defects and diffusion leakage.

R-Tech Services will be using its mechanical testing facilities to generate defects in composite tank sections, and characterising them by its optical, digital and electron microscopy equipment. These defects will then be used to help partner companies develop the sensing and data analysis requirements for the sensor system.

Other partners in the project are TWI, Pancom and Arcola Energy. TWI Ltd is an Engineering and Materials Research Institute with more than 800 staff and 2000 members worldwide. TWI is a UK research leader in hydrogen embrittlement and industrial digital radiography with facilities for multiple angle imaging. Pancom specialises in acoustic emission services provision and the development and manufacture of AE sensors, associated electronic hardware and innovative signal processing software for custom applications. Arcola Energy is a multi-disciplinary developer, manufacturer and retailer of fuel cell-based energy products, including transport systems.

The Technology Strategy Board has agreed to fund 70% of the total project costs, expected to be almost £430k over the 24-month project life.

R-Tech Materials is a group of materials testing, analysis and consultancy businesses based in Port Talbot, South Wales, consisting of R-Tech Services Ltd, a UKAS accredited materials testing and analysis business, and Metamet Consultants Ltd, specialists in laboratory-based materials investigations.

As the UK’s innovation agency, one of the main roles of Innovate UK is to achieve business and economic growth for the UK. One way the organisation supports this is through funding innovative Collaborative Research and Development (CR&D) projects. Collaborative research and development (R&D) encourages businesses and researchers to work together on innovative projects in strategically important areas of science, engineering and technology – from which successful new products, processes and services can emerge, contributing to business and economic growth.

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