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Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Sep 10

New Hope for Hydrogen Storage

Posted in Battery Technology | Fuel Cells | Hydrogen Fuel

Hydrogen Storage It seems simple but if put it into practice then we can develop real potential for hydrogen fuels. A new method of “recycling” hydrogen-containing fuel materials could pave the way for commercially viable hydrogen-based vehicles. An article published in world’s leading chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, makes a claim about recycling hydrogen-containing fuel materials. Los Alamos National Laboratory and University of Alabama researchers working within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Chemical Hydrogen Storage Center of Excellence express a noteworthy progress in hydrogen storage science.

Hydrogen is being considered as the fuel of the future as far as transportation is concerned. It is plenty in nature although it doesn’t occur freely but in association with other compounds. It can be used to run a fuel cell, which proves to be more effective than conventional combustion engines. It does not produce greenhouse gases that are damaging to the surroundings.

There are some serious disadvantages if we are going to use hydrogen in its current form. Transportation fuels should be lightweight to maintain overall fuel efficiency and pack high energy content into a small volume. It’s sad that right now under normal conditions, pure hydrogen exhibits a low energy density per unit volume. It is a technical challenge for its use in vehicles which can traverse 300 miles or more on a single fuel tank. This yardstick is set by DOE.

Chemical Hydrogen Storage Center of Excellence is paying attention to using a class of materials known as chemical hydrides. They are hopeful about confronting some of the energy density issues associated with pure hydrogen. Hydrogen can be freed from hydrides and potentially used to run a fuel cell. These compounds can be termed as “chemical fuel tanks” because of their hydrogen storage capability.

Ammonia borane could prove to be a serious contender to store hydrogen. Its storage capacity is estimated to be 20% by weight. But ammonia borane has one huge disadvantage too and it’s the lack of energy-efficient methods to reintroduce hydrogen back into the spent fuel once it has been released. It means after hydrogen has been released, ammonia borane cannot be satisfactorily recycled.

Los Alamos researchers along with University of Alabama colleagues are working on developing techniques for the efficient recycling of ammonia borane. Dr. Gene Peterson, leader of the Chemistry Division at Los Alamos, says “This research represents a breakthrough in the field of hydrogen storage and has significant practical applications. The chemistry is new and innovative, and the research team is to be commended on this excellent achievement.” The research team made an advance when it discovered polyborazylene.

Polyborazylene is a specific form of dehydrogenated fuel and it could be recycled with relative simplicity with the help of modest energy input. This step can lead to using ammonia borane as a probable energy carrier for transportation purposes.

To move towards large-scale implementation of hydrogen-based fuels within the transportation sector and to improve the overall chemical efficiency the research team is currently working with their colleagues at The Dow Chemical Company, another part in this ongoing endeavor.

  • John Mann

    I think this is an interesting article and has potential.

    Has anyone looked to wind energy by-product to produce Hydrogen

  • D.S. Maisel

    In your consideration of hydrogen, how do you propose that the hydrogen be produced in the first place. Unless this is done by electrolysis of water using electricity from nuclear plants, the production of hydrogen will require use of carbon fuels and the co-production of carbon dioxide so not net reduction of greenhouse gases will be achieved.

  • D.S. Maisel

    Why not use ammonia as a fuel in the first place ?

  • Sepp Hasslberger

    Wouldn’t it be great if we found a way to combine hydrogen with carbon (from CO2 in the atmosphere for example) and make a transportable fuel out of it?

    If the hydrogen were produced by electrolysis from water, the whole cycle would be carbon neutral and would not necessitate big changes in energy distribution infrastructure nor in motor technology.

  • Craig Mortell

    Actually, you can get hydrogen from water without electrolysis. Try searching for the “zinc to zinc-oxide cycle” as just one possibility.

    At around 1900 degress c (achievable with solar-thermal technologies) ZnO dissociates into Zn and O, release the O into the atmosphere and direct the Zn into another reaction (at a much lower temp than the first but still quite hot) with H2O and you get ZnO and H2, recycle the Zn0 to the first step and store/use the H2 as you see fit. Total emissions H2 and O (usually as O2).

    There are other chemical cycles that can be used at lower temps.

  • Alex Heinze

    Why not make H2 on the fly as you need it?

    Way back 50 years ago in high school science I made Hydrogen and Oxygen with a battery and a couple of graphite rods scavenge from pencils. This would be a great way to store intermittent energy from sources like the sun or wind. The idea, of course, needs alot of upscaling. Perhaps making methane or ethane as a storage intermediary would have some merit.

    Alex Heinze

  • Uncle B

    MIT recently did Solar to H2,+ O2 gazes. American female scientist (modern day Heroine – note: not a “Sports Star “ not adored , not given same preferential Hero-worship at school – the great American Neanderthal folly) did urine and iron electrodes to a highly efficient H2. O2, split. SEE: Solar, Wind, Wave, Tidal Hydro, and Geo-thermal means for the power are all well known. An electric bullet train intercity web, 400% more efficient than rubber wheels on asphalt surfaces, plan is afoot – eliminating the need for longer distance travel by personal vehicles entirely.

    The need for H2 fuels for personal car transportation is doubtful, with the advent of super-batteries, giving up to 300 miles per charge as is. See the “Tesla Sedan” on this net. H2 is a smaller, hard to store molecule, that does cost energy to isolate! Rechargeable batteries are more energy efficient, and most practical – so practical, the corporations bought the patents and buried them! Don’t believe me, see the documentary “Who Killed The Electric Car” found on this net for free in some places! The Electric Trains can be H2 + O2 gas driven, once storage difficulties are hammered out. The problem lies in the astounding paradigm shifts required by Americans.

    Only through terrible tragedy, perhaps economic tragedy, can they be convulsed into the massive swing from gasoline to anything else! They buy gasoline with borrowed money now, and break the economy of their own country to burn it! Even diesel, burnt in the new Mercedes Blue TEC turbo diesels, Hybrid and plug in-able, giving passenger cars 90+ mpg, is turned down for the beloved low compression, spark ignition, gasoline engine, in all but heavy trucks! For the various political, social, sentimental, even romantic reasons, we have a convention so bound up even in our Mythology as to entrap us into uneconomic and impractical behaviors – overcoming this, the great barricade to common sense, will take perhaps the great depression, now lurking in the next trough of our naturally cyclic economy, crashing dollar, and due in part to our Oil bill in the Middle East, to OPEC and their ilk, all the while solar power wastes in our South Western deserts, Wind blows up the Prairie Corridor, bringing only rain, not power, and we spend even more for precious gasoline.

    The Holy Grail, copious amounts of a synthetic gasoline from Wind Turbines, Solar power stations! It isn’t gonna happen! Yankee Doodle! the “Merry Oldsmobile’s” of the past are in fact in the past, the Fuel cell powered Electric Bullet Train about to be built, and battery cars are already on the streets! They all chip away at the Harley Davidson’s, Two Cylinder Radial rebels from the 1920’s aircraft industries, and Electric bikes are on the pave as we speak, faster, smoother, and silent but mostly rechargeable for pennies with Solar, Wind generated fuel, goddammit! beat that with your ten-thousand parts, gasoline behemoths! We have only three in the electric contraptions!

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