Discovery is a step towards pollution-free cars
One of the major problems with hydrogen as an energy source has been that the density is so low that it's hard to store enough to power an automobile. Now researchers in Newcastle University's Northern Carbon Research Laboratories may have discovered a practical way to store hydrogen densely enough to make fuel cell cars possible.
At the present time, no existing hydrogen storage technology meets the challenging performance required to make hydrogen-powered automobiles competitive with traditional vehicles. New and innovative ideas are needed.
The Liverpool and Newcastle researchers have found a workable method of injecting the gas at high pressure into the tiny pores - of ten to the minus nine metres in size - in specially-designed materials to give a dense form of hydrogen. They then reduce the pressure within the material in order to store the captured hydrogen safely. Heat can be applied to release the hydrogen as energy, on which a car could potentially run.
Professor Mark Thomas, of Newcastle University's Northern Carbon Research Laboratories in the School of Natural Sciences, a member of the research team, said:
"This is a proof of principle that we can trap hydrogen gas in a porous material and release it when required. However, if developed further, this method would have the potential to be applied to powering cars or any generator supplying power. Although hydrogen-powered cars are likely to be decades away, our discovery brings this concept a step towards becoming reality.
"Now that we have a mechanism that works, we can go on to design and build better porous framework materials for storing hydrogen, which may also be useful in industries that use gas separation techniques."
Professor Matt Rosseinsky, of the University of Liverpool's Department of Chemistry, said "Our new porous materials can capture hydrogen gas within their channels, like a molecular cat-flap.
"After allowing the hydrogen molecule the 'cat - in, the structure closes shut behind it. The important point is that the hydrogen is loaded into the materials at high pressure but stored in them at a much lower pressure - a unique behavior. This basic scientific discovery may have significant ramifications for hydrogen storage and other technologies that rely on the controlled entrapment and release of small molecules."
If this technology works out it would be a major step toward a non polluting alternative to oil.