Hydrogen Safety Research Program

Increased use of hydrogen as an energy carrier has prompted the need to investigate the safety aspects associated with the use of hydrogen fuel cells and supporting infrastructure.

canisters of hydrogen stacked up next to a flammability warning sign

Although hydrogen has been used safely in a wide variety of industries for many years, new technologies and applications present new safety challenges. The unique properties of hydrogen make it behave differently from other common fuels used today. These properties include a wide flammability range, low ignition energy, and high diffusivity and buoyancy. SRI has partnered with Sandia National Laboratories to provide the data necessary to ensure that hydrogen can be used safely by the general public.

The goal of this research is to develop a defensible and traceable basis for creating new hydrogen codes and standards. To support Sandia’s Hydrogen Safety, Codes, and Standards Program, SRI researchers perform medium- and large-scale experiments to acquire physical data on hydrogen dispersion, ignition, and combustion.

SRI has performed a wide range of experiments to investigate different aspects of hydrogen behavior. The focus of the experiments has ranged from acquiring fundamental data on hydrogen combustion and ignition phenomena to investigating unintended releases of hydrogen from fuel-cell vehicles in realistic operating environments.

SRI has performed several experiments to characterize hydrogen jet fires produced by leaks from high-pressure tanks; investigate spontaneous ignition of hydrogen caused by electrostatic discharge produced by entrained particulates; and characterize unintended hydrogen releases from fuel cell vehicles inside tunnels and warehouses. The data are used to validate computational models and perform quantitative risk assessments related to specific accident scenarios.

SRI has also conducted research to evaluate the effectiveness of risk mitigation strategies, such as the use of barrier walls of different configurations to protect people and property from hazards produced by hydrogen storage facilities.

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Erik Merilo of SRI International

In this podcast, research engineer Erik Merilo explains how SRI researchers work with government and industry partners to conduct experiments to address hydrogen safety concerns.