Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Hydrogen and alternative energy vectors

This research area focuses on the generation, storage and utilisation of synthetic chemical energy carriers and synthetic fuels, for example hydrogen.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This research area focuses on the generation, storage and utilisation of synthetic chemical energy carriers and synthetic fuels (for example, hydrogen), including the materials and devices used for their generation and storage, and any socio-economic and environmental issues related to these technologies.

We aim to focus on incorporating low carbon hydrogen and other energy vectors into energy systems, reflecting the Energy theme priority of systems integration and decarbonisation.

Considering the current challenges within the energy sector and the government’s target to reduce emissions to zero by 2050, hydrogen has the potential to play a key role in contributing to broad decarbonisation.

The strategic direction of this research area depends strongly on the direction that government and industry take in terms of policy and national infrastructure. It is important that the community is responsive to the needs of this evolving system, and equally important that voices within fundamental research contribute to the decision-making processes.

What we would like to see

There are particular areas of focus that we would like to see within this research area.

Hydrogen production at scale

We would like to see a particular focus on hydrogen production at scale, incorporating hydrogen into current infrastructures and linking hydrogen to renewables and whole energy systems.

Impact of hydrogen in the gas grid

We would also like to see work carried out to understand the impact of hydrogen’s incorporation into the gas grid. This is its use in gas turbines to its transmission via the grid, both as a pure gas and as an addition to natural gas.

Clean hydrogen technologies

Other areas of focus we would like to see are steps towards the application of clean hydrogen technologies:

  • in transport – either through fuel cells or as a direct fuel
  • as an industrial feedstock
  • as a fuel for heating in the home and in industry.

Socio technical challenges

Another area of focus is strengthened links to the social sciences communities to understand the socio technical challenges with regard to new hydrogen technologies.

Alternative vectors

We would also like to see the development of alternative vectors to be incorporated into the energy system, for example ammonia.

Chemical energy storage

Hydrogen and other chemical energy stores have typically been excluded from funding opportunities for proposals in Energy Storage, however, future opportunities in that area will also include systems which focus on the chemical means to store energy.

Trained specialists

We want to ensure that the UK has a ready supply of trained specialists who understand hydrogen generation, transmission, storage and use, whether as part of the gas grid or in more specific applications.

Why we're doing it

Hydrogen has substantial potential as an energy carrier and a store of energy in the UK energy system.

Hydrogen generation

The majority of our current hydrogen is generated from steam methane reforming, using fossil-fuel derived methane. While this natural gas is lower in emissions than oil and coal, the hydrogen produced is still linked to CO2 emissions.

Moreover, although this method of hydrogen generation can be coupled with carbon capture and storage to lower the CO2 released to the atmosphere, the ultimate long-term goal is to be able to produce carbon-neutral hydrogen by electrolysis or thermal cracking at a large scale using renewable energy.

Progress in new hydrogen technologies has been slower than in other areas of energy technologies and if government targets are to be reached, there needs to be strengthened policy alongside accelerated new technology development, including large scale production of green hydrogen, to achieve this.

UK strengths in this area

The UK has strengths in very specific areas of Hydrogen and Alternative Energy Vectors (for example, storage and safety), in combination with a strong gas infrastructure. There is also a strong electrochemistry community to work on the challenges of electrolytic hydrogen production, while the underpinning technology has a lot in common with fuel cells and redox-flow batteries, ideal for transport applications.

Researchers pool

Hydrogen and Alternative Energy Vectors is seen as part of a group of research areas which share a pool of electrochemical researchers including:

Many researchers in one area will have interests in one or more of the others and can move from one to another relatively easily.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Hydrogen and Alternative Energy Vectors.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Last updated: 21 December 2022

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