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)