Brouwer’s research focuses upon high-temperature electrochemical dynamics and integrated renewable energy systems including fuel cells, electrolyzers, batteries, gas turbines, and solar and wind power. Brouwer is recognized for research and development of the world’s first integrated hybrid solid oxide fuel cell gas turbine system, the world’s first renewable high temperature fuel cell system for tri-generation of hydrogen, heat, and power, the world’s first direct DC powering of data center servers with a fuel cell, and the U.S. first renewable power-to-gas hydrogen injection into the natural gas system and subsequent conversion to decarbonized electricity in a combined cycle power plant.
Brouwer received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1993. From 1993 to 1997, he served as a research assistant professor at the University of Utah and was a member of the technical staff at Reaction Engineering International. He came to UC Irvine in 1997 as associate director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center (NFCRC), concurrently holding appointments as lecturer, assistant and then associate adjunct professor. He was named assistant professor in the summer of 2011 and became full professor in the summer of 2017.
Areas of Expertise (5)
High-Temperature Electrochemical Dynamics
Renewable Power Dynamics
Integrated Renewable Power Systems
Hybrid Power and Energy Storage Systems
Massachusetts Institute of Technology: PhD, Mechanical Engineering 1993
Media Appearances (11)
The hope and hype of hydrogen
The New York Times online
“Over time, as the infrastructure gets built out everywhere, we will see a huge private investment in the production of hydrogen and the delivery of hydrogen in these cheaper ways,” said Jack Brouwer, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Irvine, and the director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center [advanced power and energy program]. … “Someday, renewable, clean hydrogen will be cheaper than what we are paying today for gasoline,” Brouwer said. “It’s inevitable.”
Opinion: Our clean energy transition requires hydrogen — we must treat it fairly
The Hill online
Jack Brouwer, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the Clean Energy Institute (CEI) at the University of California, Irvine writes, “Congress came together to pass the bipartisan Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which includes substantial investments in clean energy technologies. Notably, clean hydrogen received a production tax credit to empower its competition against polluting fossil fuels. … Congress recognized the urgency of nurturing the clean renewable hydrogen industry, and action is required now. Establishing infrastructure and supply chains takes time. Starting the green hydrogen industry now is essential to achieve zero emissions by mid-century, saving lives and enhancing the quality of life ….
On a hydrogen hunt in San Francisco
Financial Times online
Jack Brouwer, an engineering professor [and Director Advanced Power and Energy Program] at University of California, Irvine who has worked for years on hydrogen issues, told me the reason the cost of hydrogen had surged is that state subsidies are being gobbled up by big businesses jumping into sustainable energy, such as biodiesel. These businesses “took all of the credits” that had been going to companies making and distributing hydrogen, he said. California’s legislature and governor know about this problem in hydrogen subsidies but for now it hasn’t been fixed. [Subscription required, campus-wide access provided by UCI Libraries. Sign-up here: https://guides.lib.uci.edu/news/ft]
UCI tests out futuristic smart grid technology at faculty homes
"We must have energy storage if we are to make a highly renewable future work," said Brouwer. "The second is that we need to upgrade the electric infrastructure if we want 100% zero-emission vehicles. An alternative to that is to use hydrogen and fuel cell technology."
Researchers want to mix renewable fuels into existing gas lines at UC Irvine
Daily Pilot online
"Research at UCI has shown that we cannot achieve high renewable power use without the features of hydrogen," Jack Brouwer, director of the UCI-based National Fuel Cell Research Center, wrote in a news release issued Friday by SoCalGas.
Experts say significant grid investments needed to phase out gas-powered vehicles in California
"The grid does not currently have the capability to add millions of battery electric or even fuel-cell electric vehicles today," Jack Brouwer, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UCI. "So, we have some time to make reasonable investments in the grid to enable this to actually happen and to happen well."
SoCalGas begins developing 100% clean hydrogen pipeline system
Utility Drive online
“We are on the precipice of huge growth in the production, distribution, and use of green hydrogen to enable high renewable use and zero emissions in all sectors of the economy,” Jack Brouwer, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine, said in a statement. “For nearly a decade, SoCalGas has worked together with us and others to make the hydrogen economy a reality, including helping us build the very first power-to-gas-to-power system in the country right here on the UCI campus.”
Large-Scale Green Hydrogen Infrastructure System Unveiled for California
Power Magazine online
Jack Brouwer, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), noted that SoCalGas has worked with the university and others for nearly a decade to make the hydrogen economy a reality. Efforts included “helping us build the very first power-to-gas-to-power system in the country right here on the UCI campus,” Brouwer said. “The Angeles Link is a great example of what can be done when government, industry, and academia work together toward a common purpose,” he said.
What Is “Clean Hydrogen”?
But blending hydrogen with natural gas is unlikely to significantly reduce carbon emissions in the near term. Jack Brouwer, director of the Advanced Power and Energy Program at the University of California–Irvine, where he conducts research on a broad range of hydrogen applications, told Grist that commercially available power plant technology can currently burn a blend of up to 30 percent hydrogen gas and 70 percent methane. According to a peer-reviewed study from 2019, a 30 percent hydrogen blend would only reduce the emissions from burning natural gas by about 12 percent.
Why the ‘Swiss Army knife’ of climate solutions is so controversial
But blending hydrogen with natural gas is unlikely to significantly reduce carbon emissions in the nearterm. Jack Brouwer, director of the Advanced Power and Energy Program at the University of California, Irvine, where he conducts research on a broad range of hydrogen applications, told Grist that commercially available power plant technology can currently burn a blend of up to 30 percent hydrogen gas and 70 percent methane. According to a peer-reviewed study from 2019, a 30-percent hydrogen blend would only reduce the emissions from burning natural gas by about 12 percent.
For Many, Hydrogen Is the Fuel of the Future. New Research Raises Doubts.
The New York Times online
Jack Brouwer, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine, said that hydrogen would ultimately need to be made using renewable energy to produce what the industry calls green hydrogen, which uses renewable energy to split water into its constituent parts, hydrogen and oxygen. That, he said, would eliminate the fossil and the methane leaks.
Experimental dynamic dispatch of a 60 kW proton exchange membrane electrolyzer in power-to-gas applicationInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
John M. Stansberry, Jacob Brouwer
2020 A 60 kW PEM electrolyzer was modified to have dynamic dispatch capabilities through the use of an external mass flow controller and was subsequently operated and studied in detail as a part of the UC Irvine power-to-gas (P2G) demonstration project. The system operated in load following for both rooftop solar PV output and aggregated wind farm power.
Hydrogen leaks at the same rate as natural gas in typical low-pressure gas infrastructureInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Alejandra Hormaza Mejia, Jacob Brouwer, Michael Mac Kinnon
2020 A global interest to increase the use of renewable resources has spurred an interest in hydrogen (H2) gas as an energy carrier. Natural gas (NG) infrastructure has been proposed as a potential storage, transmission and distributions system for renewably produced gaseous H2 fuel. Introducing H2 to the NG system has raised concerns about H2 leakage from the system.
Dynamic dispatch of solid oxide electrolysis system for high renewable energy penetration in a microgridEnergy Conversion and Management
Paolo Colombo, Alireza Saeedmanesh, Massimo Santarelli, Jack Brouwer
2020 The impacts of increasing deployment of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) on existing energy infrastructure has been investigated in a microgrid, an energy system that, with its constraints, foreshadows the challenges of the evolving electricity network. The campus microgrid of the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is modeled, including an existing natural gas-fueled combined cycle power plant, electric chilling and thermal energy storage, and analyzing the microgrid response to additional Photovoltaic (PV) installations.
Net-zero emissions energy systemsScience
2018 Models show that to avert dangerous levels of climate change, global carbon dioxide emissions must fall to zero later this century. Most of these emissions arise from energy use. Davis et al. review what it would take to achieve decarbonization of the energy system. Some parts of the energy system are particularly difficult to decarbonize, including aviation, long-distance transport, steel and cement production, and provision of a reliable electricity supply.
Hydrogen is essential for sustainabilityCurrent Opinion in Electrochemistry
2018 Sustainable energy conversion requires zero emissions of greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants using primary energy sources that the earth naturally replenishes quickly, like renewable resources. Solar and wind power conversion technologies have become cost effective recently, but challenges remain to manage electrical grid dynamics and to meet end-use requirements for energy dense fuels and chemicals.
The role of natural gas and its infrastructure in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, improving regional air quality, and renewable resource integrationProgress in Energy and Combustion Science
2018 The pursuit of future energy systems that can meet electricity demands while supporting the attainment of societal environment goals, including mitigating climate change and reducing pollution in the air, has led to questions regarding the viability of continued use of natural gas. Natural gas use, particularly for electricity generation, has increased in recent years due to enhanced resource availability from non-traditional reserves and pressure to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) from higher-emitting sources, including coal generation.
Dynamic performance of an in-rack proton exchange membrane fuel cell battery system to power serversInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
2017 To improve the reliability and the energy efficiency of data centers, as well as to reduce infrastructure costs and environmental impacts, we experimentally evaluated in-rack powering of servers with a hybrid 12 kW Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) and battery system. The steady state and the transient performance of the PEMFC and battery in response to dynamic AC loads and real server loads have been evaluated and characterized.
Dynamic modeling of compressed gas energy storage to complement renewable wind power intermittencyInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
2013 To evaluate the impacts and capabilities of large-scale compressed gas energy storage for mitigating wind intermittency, dynamic system models for compressed air energy storage and compressed hydrogen energy storage inside salt caverns have been developed. With the experimental data from air storage in a salt cavern in Huntorf, Germany, the cavern model has been verified.