DOE's safety R&D activities are focused on developing hydrogen sensors for detecting hydrogen leaks, which pose a safety concern for hydrogen and fuel cell systems. The leak sensor must be sensitive enough to provide a safe and reliable alarm system that is rugged, easily manufactured, and priced reasonably. Automotive applications, which employ fuel cells in an enclosed environment, are especially critical for the use of dependable sensors. DOE sponsors research to resolve these issues and develop low-cost, reliable sensors for hydrogen and fuel cell systems. Several different types of sensors are now under investigation.
DOE is also developing a second type of sensor to detect impurities in the fuel, which can contaminate the catalyst used in fuel cells. The impurities arise from the many potential sources of hydrogen (electrolyzers, reformers, biomass, tanks, and other storage possibilities).
The status of DOE's safety R&D projects is detailed in the safety, codes, and standards section of the Annual Progress Report.