432914 Accelerating the Onset of the Hydrogen Economy

Sunday, November 8, 2015
Exhibit Hall 1 (Salt Palace Convention Center)
Fernando Olmos, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA

As a PhD student at UCLA, my research has tackled some of the technological challenges of the hydrogen economy such as vehicle integration, fill-up of hydrogen fuel cell cars, and production of green hydrogen. As part of the first prong of my research, I was in charge of designing, building and testing the hydrogen feed and cooling systems for the UCLA fuel cell go-kart that participated in different races and events through 2011. I also served as safety inspector for the team and project leader. The second prong of my research yielded new methodologies and systems for the optimum fill-up of hydrogen fuel cell cars since one of the key challenges for the deployment of this type of cars is the lack of fill-up practices that are time efficient and safe. Moreover, hydrogen fueling station operators do not employ an optimal mass flowrate policy that can satisfy the aforementioned constraints. A hydrogen vehicle user will like that the replenishment of fuel to his/her vehicle take the same time as a gasoline car. On the other hand, the type IV tanks, based on carbon fiber wrapping, have a maximum temperature limitation of 85 degree Celsius, so the fill-up process must ensure that this temperature is not surpassed. The research I have conducted has led to the development novel mathematical models and software that can simulate and optimize the fill-up process of gas fuel such as hydrogen, and even compressed natural gas (CNG). The models are based on a self-consistent thermodynamic model for real gases, transport phenomena principles, and conservations laws, which predict hydrogen’s temperature and pressure time evolutions inside the vehicle tank, the station storage tank, the piping connecting the tanks, and the dispenser isenthalpic valve. The model results have proven to match, within 2%, corresponding experimental data from an actual fill-up process. Furthermore, in order to minimize the fill-up time and to determine an optimum mass flowrate policy, the process was formulated as a minimum time optimal control problem, which through the use of a novel decomposition of the problem into a process simulation problem, that checks for feasibility of the fill-up independent of time, and a simple minimum time optimal control problem, the global minimum fill-up time can be obtained analytically along with an optimal control policy on the mass flowrate. The optimization studies results lead to a fill-up time strategy that can improve current fill-up practices. The third prong of my research have been the fundamental studies for the realization of a concentrated solar power driven thermochemical cycle for the co-generation of electricity, oxygen, and hydrogen based on the thermal decomposition of alkali carbonates. First, thermodynamic calculations were employed to find the optimum reaction conditions for the individual reactions to be carried out. Then, a realization of the process' flowsheet was simulated based on Gibbs minimization method, so I could be subjected to optimization studies that maximizes hydrogen output.

In addition to my core research, I have also performed as the safety officer for Prof. Manousiouthakis experimental lab, having to go to intensive safety training and yearly inspections. I am a very active member of UCLA Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity efforts to motivate students coming from minority populations to attend the UCLA engineering school. I have been participating in the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) program, laboratory tours, panels, talks, tutoring, and volunteering and organizing events since 2006. I have been a research mentor to more than 50 middle and high school, undergraduate and graduate students yield several presentations. My research interests are alternative energy sources for vehicles, production of “green” hydrogen, design of hydrogen fueling stations, hydrogen safety, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles integration.

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