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DOE lends support to natural gas tank research

The U.S. Dept. of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded $30 million to 13 projects to advance natural gas vehicle technologies in its new program titled Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy (MOVE). MOVE projects aim to engineer lightweight, affordable natural gas tanks for vehicles as well as to develop natural gas compressors that can efficiently fuel a natural gas vehicle at home. 

(MOVE). MOVE projects aim to engineer lightweight, affordable natural gas tanks for vehicles as well as to develop natural gas compressors that can efficiently fuel a natural gas vehicle at home. 

Topping the award list is Ford Motor Company, with a $5.5 million award to engineer an adsorbed natural gas storage system utilizing a novel external framework and internal porous materials.

The Gas Technology Institute (GTI; Des Plaines, IL), meanwhile, will be the recipient of two grants: A $1.5 million grant will be used to identify new porous materials for low-pressure gas storage tanks using their computational screening tool. This approach enables the rapid identification of low-cost, high-performance materials that will speed the development of low-pressure natural gas tanks for vehicles. A second, $875,000 grant will be employed to develop a unique low-pressure natural gas storage tank for light-duty vehicles using a thin tailored shell to increase storage capacity while driving down cost. GTI's innovative shell contains valves that can be opened and closed on demand to allow for vehicle refueling, driving, or storage.

Another recipient, Otherlab, Inc. (San Francisco, CA), has secured a $250,000 grant to develop a high-pressure natural gas tank for light-duty vehicles using small diameter tubes tightly wound into a tank shape. Like human intestines, these small tubes will fit tightly into virtually any shape for efficient storage. Gas intestine storage tanks could be as light as today's carbon fiber tanks at one fifth the cost.

REL, Inc. (Calumet, MI) is one of the major beneficiaries of the DOE grants, scoring $3 million to develop a low-cost, conformable natural gas tank for light-duty vehicles that has an internal foam core. Unlike normal hollow pressure vessels that are cylindrical, this internal foam design will allow tanks to be formed into any shape. The foam core will enable higher storage capacity than current carbon fiber tanks at one-third the cost.

United Technologies Research Center (East Hartford, CT) has also scored big with a $4 million grant to engineer a low-cost natural gas tank for light-duty vehicles using modular designs and low-cost construction materials, allowing tanks to be manufactured into shapes that easily fit into the tight spaces of light duty vehicles. This modular design will replace today's bulky storage tanks in light duty vehicles at a lower cost and without sacrificing driving range. —[email protected]

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