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Objective: Hydrogen

​The French government recently announced its strategy to develop hydrogen to drive the energy transition. Liten, a CEA Tech institute, plans to leverage its know-how in hydrogen technology and software to support this strategy.

Published on 10 September 2018

The French government sent a strong message about hydrogen’s potential in an official announcement of the start of the €100 million plan to develop the energy carrier starting in 2019. Liten, a CEA Tech institute, active in hydrogen research for more than two decades, is poised to address hydrogen development from a position of leadership. The institute possesses solid know-how in the main applications targeted by the government’s strategy and, in some cases, has already successfully transferred its technologies to industrial companies.

In 2005 Liten developed the first Genepac fuel cell for PSA. The fuel cell was unveiled in 2006 and integrated into a Peugeot 307 CC three years later. An improved version of the fuel cell was transferred to Symbio in 2012 to equip captive fleets of hydrogen-powered Renault Kangoo utility vehicles. Last year, Liten signed an agreement with major global automotive equipment manufacturer Faurecia to continue to develop fuel cells to prepare for widespread rollout.

Hydrogen is currently produced mainly via the steam reforming of hydrocarbon fuels, a process that generates substantial CO2 emissions. Liten is focusing on a high-temperature water-electrolysis technology developed in conjunction with Sylfen to help reach the government’s target of 10% “green” hydrogen by 2023. The partners recently announced that they designed, assembled, and tested the first reversible functional demonstrator of the Smart Energy Hub in Grenoble, France. In electrolyzer mode, the Smart Energy Hub produces hydrogen from solar electricity; in fuel-cell mode, it provides power and heat for buildings. The demonstrator marks a crucial step toward transferring French-developed high-temperature reversible electrolysis technology to industry. 

From components to systems

Liten also possesses strong know-how in software used to improve the components it develops. For example, Liten researchers can use the institute’s validated simulation software to improve the design of the bipolar plates—highly complex components by definition—found in fuel cells.

The same applies to complex systems like the Energy Observer (the world’s first hydrogen-powered boat), where Liten researchers developed software to automate management of the vessel’s entire energy system, which includes a complete hydrogen chain, to provide a reliable power supply on board. Liten can also assess the economic viability of complex systems, something the institute recently completed for a project in Corsica.

Finally, as a leader in energy research, Liten is active in the major current and future demonstrator systems in France to convert CO2 into syngas, coupling syngas and “green” hydrogen production. These initiatives include the GRHYD power-to-gas project, which kicked off on June 11, 2018, and the Jupiter 1000 power-to-gas project, which began in 2017.

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