The main obstacle to building a ‘hydrogen economy’ – this much touted vision of a society where the main energy carrier is hydrogen – is the lack of efficient hydrogen storage. The research conducted in the hydrogen storage scientific community is aimed towards mobile applications. Hydrogen is a gas at ambient conditions and takes up a lot of space. For stationary storage facilities, for which available space is not an issue, hydrogen gas can be kept in large tanks at moderate pressures using already known technology. However, in order to utilize hydrogen for mobile applications i.e. to produce and be able to sell hydrogen fuelled cars on a large scale, it must be stored in a compact, safe, cheap and efficient way.
In 2009, the U.S Department of Energy (DOE) proposed on-board hydrogen storage system performance targets that have become widely accepted. So far, researchers haven’t been able to successfully demonstrate a material that is capable of simultaneously meeting all of the requirements and criteria set out by the DOE.
A European research team has now reported on a new concept for hydrogen storage using nanoconfined reversible chemical reactions. They demonstrate that nanoconfined hydride has a significant hydrogen storage potential. Research at the Nano Energy-Materials research group at Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO) at Aarhus University in Denmark, led by Flemming Besenbacher and Torben R. Jensen, focuses on the utilization of nanoporous materials as scaffolds for preparation and confinement of nanosized metal hydrides. This bottom-up approach limits the particle size of the hydride to the average pore size of the scaffold material, which allows for the direct production of smaller particles than obtainable mechanically. Furthermore, particle growth and agglomeration may be hindered by the compartmentalization of the nanoparticles within the scaffold material. Nanoconfinement may also mediate improved re-hydrogenation properties of complex metal hydrides.
The automobile fleet is contributing significantly to air quality degradation in large cities. The use of hydrogen as a fuel is interesting since combustion delivers a lot of energy without polluting. However, some obstacles, like the efficient storage of this gas, remain before it can be implemented in the transportation industry.
Hydrogen storage solutions
The United States Department of energy (DOE) has fixed two targets for hydrogen storage solutions applied to automotive transportation. The first target requires a ratio of hydrogen weight / tank weight that is superior to 0,065 (6,5% weight). This target limits the weight of the tank. The second target requires a hydrogen volumetric density higher than 62 kg/m in order to limit the volume of the tank.
Four main solutions were proposed to solve this problem:
- Compression or liquefaction of hydrogen
- Metal hydrides
- Chemical tanks
- Adsorbent materials
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