There are many uncertainties surrounding energy and global environmental issues, mainly due to social and economic influences. However, there is no question that decarbonization and the introduction of renewable energy are essential goals for humanity, and hydrogen must play a sizable role in achieving them.
Following the 4th Strategic Energy Plan, the 5th Plan continues to reaffirm that the intensification and enhancement of measures aimed at realizing a hydrogen energy based society belong among the most important national policies as we approach 2030. To promote widespread use of hydrogen energy, not only advancement of the fuel cell technology – the core of energy conversion, but also establishing the technology needed to safely store, carry and supply the hydrogen used in the fuel cells, etc. while improving their economic efficiency is essential. It is also vital to boost the global competitiveness of hydrogen-related technologies for next-generation automobiles and the field of energy.
When using hydrogen, the assurance of safety is essential, as it is a flammable gas. At the same time, the influence of hydrogen on material characteristics is equally in need of consideration. As hydrogen is the smallest atom in existence, it can penetrate any material and sometimes alters the characteristics of the material. Many types of steel lose strength due to hydrogen embrittlement. Rubber and polymeric materials used to prevent gas leakage (such as in packing) absorb massive amounts of hydrogen in high pressure hydrogen systems, and this sometimes causes various sorts of damage. For components with surfaces that have contact with each other, friction and abrasion are influenced by hydrogen. Since metallic, rubber and polymeric materials and many other friction materials are used in the equipment and devices that store and carry hydrogen, it is essential to accurately understand the basic principles of the above-stated influence of hydrogen, and to apply this understanding to the appropriate design of equipment and devices. An accurate understanding of changes in the characteristics of materials responding to changes in the pressure and temperature of hydrogen gas is also essential.
Mastering the effective handling of hydrogen will lead to saving human lives and the global environment. Simultaneously, for hydrogen energy to be widely disseminated, it must be made feasible for future economic activity. In other words, hydrogen equipment and infrastructure should be made at low cost, with minimal load imposed on the global environment.
To respond to these social needs, Kyushu University’s Hydrogen Research Center for Hydrogen Industrial Use and Storage (HYDROGENIUS) promotes research on materials and hydrogen, aiming at the safe and efficient use of hydrogen. This research requires experimental high-pressure gas technology, material evaluation technology, advanced analysis technology and more, as well as careful and time-consuming experiments involving each material. Advanced technology is not built in a day. We are persistently pursuing our research, under a long-term research policy, to find solutions to each challenge.