Hydrogen has been shown to be a promising replacement for fossil fuels for use in light duty vehicles because it is a clean, renewable and plentiful resource with a high gravimetric energy density. However, in order to obtain an acceptable volumetric energy density, densification of the hydrogen is required. Adsorptive materials have been shown in the literature to increase volumetric and gravimetric storage densities. A major issue with adsorptive storage is that the adsorption process generates heat and optimal storage conditions are at temperatures below 100 K at pressures up to 50 atm. There is a need to develop heat exchanging architecture that enables adsorbents to be a viable method for hydrogen storage by managing the thermal environment of the storage tank.
Based on previous modeling efforts to determine an acceptable bed module height for removal of heat via microchannel cooling plates, a thermal management system has been designed and tested capable of removing the heat of adsorption within adsorbent-filled hydrogen storage tanks. The system uses liquid nitrogen cooling to maintain tank temperatures of below 80 K at 50 atm. System studies show that the microchannel architecture offers a high cooling capacity with about a 6% displacement volume. Simulations and experiments have been conducted to evaluate the design for the cooling capacity, pressure drop, and flow distribution between and across the cooling plates, stress due to the pressurized environment, and thermal stress. Cost models have been developed to demonstrate that the system can be manufactured for a reasonable cost at high production volumes. Experimental results show that the modular system offers an acceptable cooling capacity and pressure drop with good flow distribution while adequately managing thermal stresses during operation.