Though we're likely still a long ways off that vaunted hydrogen economy, it's been encouraging to witness the string of breakthroughs in storage and production technology that have taken place over the last few months. Now a team of scientists from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, have created a new class of hydrogen storage materials that could make the development of high-performance fuel cells a possibility in the near future.
Physicists Adam Phillips and Bellave Shivaram took up a proposal originally made by Taner Yildirim of the National Institute of Standards and Technology - who had calculated that a material made out titanium and ethylene, a small hydrocarbon, could form a stable complex that would bind 14% of its weight in hydrogen - and brought it to fruition. Using a laser, they vaporized titanium in a gas of ethylene and created a thin film-like material. After adding hydrogen to the material and weighing the result, they found that it had, indeed, bound 14% of its weight in the gas. To provide some context, the previous record holders had only been able to bind 7%; these also required either extremely high or low temperatures to form and were therefore much less efficient.
"In terms of hydrogen absorption, these materials could prove a world record ... Our materials absorb hydrogen up to 14 percent by weight at room temperature. By absorbing twice as much hydrogen, the new materials could help make the dream of a hydrogen economy come true," said Phillips.
Not so fast, argues Gholam-Abbas Nazri, an expert on hydrogen storage. Though he admits the material is "extremely interesting," he cautions that there have already been many false starts before; therefore, he explains, we shouldn't get too carried away with this newest development just yet. In addition, Phillips and Shivaram will first have to demonstrate that they can create the material in bulk and, most importantly, that it will work in that form. A promising start, then, with more (hopefully) to follow.
Via ::UVA Today: University of Virginia Scientists Discover Record-Breaking Hydrogen Storage Materials for Use in Fuel Cells (news release), ::ScienceNOW: New Material Doubles Record for Holding Hydrogen (news website)