60 Years of Liquid Hydrogen: Revolutionizing our Clean Energy Future Across the Solar System
Hydrogen has the highest specific energy of any fuel, is 74% of known mass in the universe, and reacts with oxygen to form water. As such, Humanity’s continued progress necessitates mastering hydrogen. 60 years ago, NASA’s Manned Spaceflight Management Council chose to develop the Saturn S-II and S-IVB LH2/LOx stages for the coming Apollo Missions to the Moon. Choosing liquid hydrogen may have been the deciding factor in mission success due to overlapping system synergies from faster transit to lighter-weight power from Bacon Cells and drinking water for the crew. Developing liquid hydrogen infrastructure sustained commerce for many decades beyond the Apollo Missions. Today, 30% of groceries in the US are moved via forklifts operating from this infrastructure.
Hydrogen will remain key in our clean energy future; whether mission architectures utilize chemical, fission, or fusion power, or we move goods via plane, train, truck, or boat. Fundamental technology advancements will be pivotal to this future. Hydrogen liquefier efficiencies remain only 30% of theoretically achievable and liquid hydrogen storage losses range between 7-40%, all but precluding missions to Mars. In this talk, I invite you to address these challenges via synergistic solutions enabled by modern manufacturing. For example, small, modular, efficient hydrogen liquefiers can be rapidly produced while fitting down the interstate, the column of an off-shore wind turbine, or an upper stage rocket fairing. Novel liquid hydrogen storage technologies can work with these cooler concepts to achieve Zero-Boil-Off in a variety of ways. The culmination of these developments has the potential to realize a sustainable energy future both on Earth and across the Solar System