High-pressure gas storage vessels represent one of the biggest and fastest-growing markets for advanced composites, particularly for filament wound carbon fibre composites. They have a use in a variety of industries, amongst which is the automotive industry and its hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Types of pressure vessels
- Type I. All-metal construction, generally steel.
- Type II. Mostly metal with some fibre overwrap in the hoop direction, mostly steel or aluminium with a glass fibre composite. The metal vessel and composites share equal structural loading.
- Type III. Metal liner with a full-composite overwrap, generally aluminium, with a carbon fibre composite. The composites carry the structural loads.
- Type IV. An all-composite construction, polymer (typically high-density polyethylene or HDPE) liner with carbon fibre or hybrid carbon/glass fibre composite. The composites carry all the structural loads.
- Type V. Linerless, all-composite construction.
Composite hydrogen storage tanks
The use of alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, is becoming an increasingly sought-out solution to improve energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions, especially in the automotive industry. But hydrogen has the highest energy per mass of any fuel.
One kg of hydrogen is equivalent to 33.3 kWh, which means it delivers three times more energy than conventional fuel. But hydrogen’s low ambient temperature density results in a low energy per unit volume. A key challenge, therefore, is how to store sufficient quantities of hydrogen onboard without sacrificing passenger and cargo space.
The Type IV pressure vessels are used to store hydrogen and are made by filament winding carbon fibre and epoxy over a plastic liner. The use of carbon fibre composites results in significantly lower weight than all-metal pressure vessels would have.
Hexagon Composites is a leading manufacturer of pressure vessels, producing composite hydrogen storage tanks for various types of vehicles. They use hydrogen in combination with fuel-cell technology as a low-carbon alternative fuel for mobility applications.
The key benefits of using composites make these hydrogen storage tanks lightweight, with long-term potential, a clean and safe energy carrier, and have large-scale storage and an improved life cycle.
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