Nano-Style Approach to Capturing and Storing Gases Could Have Applications for GHG Management and Fuel Cells

Faced with the dual challenge of finding new ways to mitigate climate change and improve upon existing clean energy technologies, some scientists are starting to think small. As TreeHugger and other eco-minded blogs have documented over the last few months, the fields of nanotechnology and materials science in particular have witnessed a rash of innovative, promising discoveries and developments in these areas.

Now a team of researchers from the University of Calgary has unveiled a potentially groundbreaking new technique for capturing and storing gas: "molecular nanovalves." The immediate applications for these so-called "nanovalves," essentially molecular-sized containers for holding gas, could include greenhouse gas management and fuel cell development (think hydrogen). "We have come up with a material that mechanically traps gas at high densities without having to use high pressures, which require special storage tanks and generate safety concerns," said George Shimizu, the lead scientist on the study, which was published in Nature-Materials.

He and his colleagues took advantage of the orderly structure of barium organotrisulfonate to craft a unique structure able to convert from a set of open channels to a set of closed chambers; the conversion is quick, and the structure need only be heated to obtain the closed chambers. To release the gas, water is added to the structure to revert to the open channels.

The next step will be creating similar "nanovalves" using lighter chemicals such as sodium and lithium; Shimizu hopes these new structures will be able to capture lighter gases - hydrogen, in particular. This process could revolutionize the development of hydrogen fuel cells by providing an effective, safer mode of transportation and storage for the volatile gas.

Image courtesy of Ken Bendiktsen

Via ::Calgary News & Events: Rounding up gases, nano style (press release)

See also: ::Greenbox: Captures Carbon Dioxide to Make Biodiesel, ::TreeHugger Picks: Fuel Cell Concepts for Laptops

Tags: Nanotechnology

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