Alliance for Collaborative Research in Alternative Fuel Technology

The Alliance for Collaborative Research in Alternative Fuel Technology (ALL-CRAFT) is a partnership of the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU, lead institution), the Midwest Research Institute (MRI) in Kansas City, and other partners to develop low-pressure,high-capacity storage technologies for natural gas (NG, methane) and hydrogen as alternative fuels for advanced transportation.

Our immediate objective is to replace bulky cylindrical, heavy-walled compressed natural gas tanks (CNG, 3600 psi) in current NG vehicles by a flat, light-weight tank, with storage as adsorbed natural gas (ANG, 500 psi) in next-generation clean vehicles. NG vehicles produce no ozone and smog, and less greenhouse gases. NG is an abundant domestic fuel, can be produced from renewable sources in significant amounts, and is cheaper than gasoline or diesel at the pump.The flat tank design, made possible by the low pressure in the ANG tank, is central to a tank that can be mounted under the floor or in other unused space of a car, making NG vehicles a broadly attractive alternative to gasoline or diesel vehicles. Other targets of our adsorbent-based storage technologies include:

  • Recovery and shipping of biomethane from landfills, sewage treatment plants, and farms (anaerobic digesters), turning a pollutant into renewable energy (‘green energy’);
  • Large-scale shipping of NG to locations that are not served by NG pipelines (also shipping from NG fields in Alaska and deep-sea methane hydrate fields, replacing costly shipping of liquefied NG in cryogenic vessels);
  • On-board storage of hydrogen for hydrogen fuel-cell cars, the grand challenge for hydrogen transportation;
  • Multidisciplinary training of students in alternative energy technology.

The project is based on discoveries at MU by Pfeifer et al.(2002) and Atwood et al. (2002), of nanoporous carbons criss-crossed by a nearly space-filling network of channels a few molecular diameters wide, and of organic solids (calixarenes) with interstitial voids, both of which adsorb methane by strong van der Waals forces, like a sponge, as a high-density fluid at low pressure and ambient temperature.

The NG work has been/is funded by the National Science Foundation (“Partnerships for Innovation,” 2004-07), California Energy Commission, and Southern California Gas Company (2009-12). The hydrogen work is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (Basic Energy Sciences, 2007-13; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 2008-13) and U.S. Department of Defense (Defense Logistics Agency, 2007-11).