Hydrogen storage for green cars

Hydrogen storage for green cars

Summary: Many people predict that one day we'll drive cars powered by hydrogen. These 'green' cars would only release water after combustion of the hydrogen, which would be good for our planet. But there is a big hurdle: we really don't know how to store safely this hydrogen. Now, researchers in the UK and Canada say they've discovered -- almost by accident -- a new material which could be used to safely store hydrogen at room temperature. This new material, a rhodium-hydrogen compound, can store and release hydrogen with a simple switch. And the researchers hope to have an hydrogen tank prototype ready within two to three years.

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Many people predict that one day we'll drive cars powered by hydrogen. These 'green' cars would only release water after combustion of the hydrogen, which would be good for our planet. But there is a big hurdle: we really don't know how to store safely this hydrogen. Now, researchers in the U.K. and Canada say they've discovered -- almost by accident -- a new material which could be used to safely store hydrogen at room temperature. This new material, a rhodium-hydrogen compound, can store and release hydrogen with a simple switch. And the researchers hope to have an hydrogen tank prototype ready within two to three years.

Here are some comments from Dr. Andrew Weller of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath.

Hydrogen has a low density and it only condenses into liquid form at -252°C so it is difficult to use conventional storage systems such as high-pressure gas containers which would need steel walls at least three inches thick, making them too heavy and too large for cars.
Our new material works at room temperature and at atmospheric pressure at the flick of a switch. Because it is made from a heavy metal (Rhodium), its weight to fuel ratio is low, 0.1 per cent, but it could certainly fill the time lag between a driver putting their foot on the accelerator and a metal hydride fuel tank getting up to temperature.

But it's fun to notice that the researchers discovered the properties of this material by a combination of luck and curiosity.

The University of Bath researchers made the discovery whilst investigating the effect that hydrogen has on metals. Having constructed an organo-metallic compound containing six rhodium (a type of metal that is also currently found in catalytic converters in cars) atoms and 12 hydrogen atoms, they began studying the chemical properties of the complex with researchers in Oxford (UK) and Victoria (Canada). They soon realised that the material would absorb two molecules of hydrogen at room temperature and atmospheric pressure – and would release the molecules when a small electric current was applied to the material.

Below is a diagram showing the calculated structure for one of these chemical compounds containing rhodium and hydrogen atoms. This particular one is known as [Rh6(PH3)6H14]+. (Credit: Andrew Weller et al.) And it might be used to build your future hydrogen tanks.

A rhodium-hydrogen compound

So what is the next step? The researchers want to build an hydrogen storage device "by printing the material onto sheets that could be stacked together and encased to form a storage tank." But it will take several years.

In the mean time, if you want more information, this research work has been published by the scientific journal Angewandte Chemie under the name "Storing and Releasing Hydrogen with a Redox Switch" (Volume 118, Issue 36, Pages 6151-6154, September 11, 2006, but published online on August 4, 2006). Here is a link to the article (no abstract available) and to some online additional information from which the above diagram has been extracted (PDF format, 15 pages, 351 KB). Finally, here is a link to the full paper via the international edition of Angewandte Chemie (PDF format, 4 pages, 220 KB).

Sources: University of Bath news release, December 4, 2006; and various websites

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6 comments
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  • One of these days

    People are actually going to get educated, throw off the heeled boot of the
    envirocommunists and realize that the biosphere currently has too little CO2 in it.

    Hey, trivia question for you: What do greenhouse growers do to boost their crops
    and cut down on fertilizer costs? Answer: They triple the CO2 levels in their
    greenhouses.

    Hey, another trivia question. When was the global climate 2-3 degrees warmer on
    average than it is today? Answer: during the Roman Empire. They were growing
    grapes in England and the vikings were growing crops in Greenland. Oh, and the
    maps of the period show no change in the coastlines. So much for rising sea
    levels.
    frgough
    • Give it up, camel licker. Your OPEC days are numbered.

      The world can already feel the OPEC heroin-needle for an oil barrel falling off it's arm, and further advances in energy tech will not only break the camel's back, but end OPEC's need to exist. Then without OPEC, the middle east will die the slow, poverty-ridden death they deserve.
      Mr. Roboto
  • Gee that's great...

    So we finally find a way to safely store hydrogen for use in our little hindenburgs, and sure it's great that we aren't pumping out all those oxides out the tailpipe. However many fail to realize, (short of having a billion wind turbines), the production of hydrogen (much less the distribution), creates more polution from the greater demand for electricity to hydrolosize water. And geez think of all that water we'll waste, much less what will we do with all that excess oxygen? Is O2 a greenhouse gas?

    Concentrate on plants! They eat your "threatening" CO2, are renewable, and can be used to make ethanol or biodiesel (which can be produced from some of our wastes as well.) Were also experienced at transporting liquids.

    Remember the Hindenburg, bulk hydrogen is a problem.
    swenzn
  • There's a simple way to store hydrogen for use in cars

    You combine it with carbon using the Fischer=Tropsch process to create synthetic hydrocarbon fuels. Then it is not only far safer and cheaper than the hydrogen storage methods being suggested, but you can also use the fuel in all existing cars and trucks, distribute it through gas stations, etc.

    We should be using nucelar energy to create synethetic fuels - the nuclear power plant could be hundreds of miles from population centers, and the procxess for creating synethetic fuels is well-known.
    brad@...
  • RE: Hydrogen storage for green cars

    it's nice to hear that there is a safe way to use and store hydrogen in cars, if this is implemented in a safe way using other car parts such as the <a href="http://www.autopartswarehouse.com/shop_brands/ready_remote.html">Ready Remote</a> then surely hydrogen car will be surely be seen in the near future.
    joycee09
  • RE: Hydrogen storage for green cars

    <a href="http://www.autopartswarehouse.com/shop_brands/ready_remote.html">Ready Remote</a> alarms should be incorporated in creating hydrogen storage for cars so that if there are any problems in the car it will be easily detected... using hydrogen for cars may be dangerous, but it could be good when it is done in a good use.
    joycee09