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Power Hardware Science

Storing Hydrogen At Room Temperature 152

cylonlover writes "Hydrogen storage, along with hydrogen production and the lack of infrastructure, remains a major stumbling block in efforts to usher in hydrogen as a replacement for hydrocarbon-based fuels in cars, trucks and even homes. But with the multiple advantages hydrogen offers, developing hydrogen storage solutions has been the focus of a great deal of research. Now an MIT-led research team has demonstrated a method that could allow hydrogen to be stored inexpensively at room temperature."
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Storing Hydrogen At Room Temperature

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  • Before people write off hydrogen as old hat in the face of the proliferation of EV's, keep in mind planes, ships, and the ground shipping fleet require far too much energy per trip to use batteries. For these vessels, It's going to be a race of energy efficiency and cost between hydrogen and bacteria that can utilize airborne or liquefied CO2 to produce hydrocarbon fuels.
    • by Anaerin (905998)
      However, at the moment, Hydrogen is difficult to store safely, and takes a huge amount of resources to make. Moreso than putting power into a battery. Aircraft (especially) already have huge surface areas upon which to put solar panels for power generation to augment a battery pack. Look at the "Solar Impulse" project.
      • The Solar Impulse, however beautiful and amazing it is, is about as useful as a production aircraft as a sailplane. Probably worse actually as sailplanes are quite capable of flying in moderate upwind.

      • [ I had a look -- [] ]

        Well, no .. at least no to the "already have huge surface areas" bit.

        The first Solar Impulse has the wingspan of the Airbus A340 but can only carry one person in an un-pressurised cabin. The second edition has a pressurised cabin (still one person) but a wingspan bigger than an A380!

        It be interesting to calculate how much of a battery pack a Boeing 747 would need, and how much of that pack could be augmented with solar power in an 8-hour daylight

    • by horza (87255)

      You can use hydrogen in two different ways. You can burn it in an internal combustion engine instead of petrol, where both are around 25% efficient []. Some cars you can work directly with hydrogen unmodified, others you can adapt.

      Or you can use the hydrogen in a fuel cell to power an EV. This gives incredibly high efficiency. The hydrogen and fuel cell are effectively your battery in the EV. We know it works as hydrogen fuel cell cars have been driving around for a decade. Getting them cost effective is the b

      • The efficiency of any practical hydrogen fuel cell is also around 25%. That is why people just don't care about it. Not to say that it will last just a few years, and the "injection" system is quite unusual.

        Ok, the theoretical maximum efficiency is 100%, so it is a great research topic, but it just isn't viable right now.

      • by Arlet (29997)

        Making them cost effective also means making fuel cells without platinum. There just isn't enough platinum in the world to make a billion fuel cells.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @06:47PM (#37473844) Journal

    "Platinum-doped activated-carbon lattice" is not the material that comes to mind when I think of "inexpensively".

    • I guess that it is inexpensive if it works forever...

      A former employer has a solid state storage system for toxic gases that seems similar on the surface:
      SDS is a groundbreaking technology designed to reduce the hazards and environmental risks associated with transporting, storing, and delivering highly toxic gases. The SDS3 employs a novel nano-porous adsorbent to contain hazardous gases at sub atmospheric pressures. SDS houses toxic gases at sub-atmospheric pressure-virtually eliminating catastrophic rele

      • by Abreu (173023)

        Well, yeah. But cars nowadays are designed to work for five-ten years more or less...

        • Taking the average mileage of vehicles (about 150,000 miles) and the average miles driven a year (12,000 miles) gives an average vehicle age of about 12.5 years. This is a vast improvement over vehicles of a few decades back when a car really was used up after about 60,000 miles. Could we build vehicles that had lifespans of decades and mileages in the multiple hundreds of thousands yes, and I would say that we currently do. I find that in general the longevity of a vehicle is more dependent on the care giv
        • by fnj (64210)

          I imagine the catalyst would be recycled just as as it is from millions of automobile catalytic converters per year.

    • Not if it's used only in small quantities. We are talking about nanoscale here. Like the gold in chips doesn't make them expensive.
    • by rts008 (812749)

      Another case of a sensational spin added by the headline and summary, but not present in the linked article.


      Sow-Hsin Chen, MIT professor emeritus in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering and senior author of a paper describing the new method, says it should make it possible to increase the storage capacity of the activated carbon material by fine-tuning the size and concentrations of the particles of platinum and carbon. The team also hopes to identify a catalyst that isn't quite as expens

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        So, you agree that they don't actually have a workable solution, and are just pimping for funding?
  • An easy solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @06:54PM (#37473912)
    I know an easy way to store hydrogen safely at room temperature: make a chain of carbon atoms, then join hydrogen atoms in the leftover "slots".

    Seriously, the whole idea of "hydrogen economy" is simply stupid. It's not going to do anyone any good unless you have a power source to produce the hydrogen; and if you have said power source, it really isn't that hard to crack carbon dioxide and water to produce hydrocarbons rather than just water to produce hydrogen. Either produces carbon-neutral fuel, but hydrocarbons are far safer to store and use and hold more energy per mass or volume unit. Hydrocarbons also have the advantage of being compatible with existing vehicles and distribution network, being another name for oil.

    The final nail in the coffin of hydrogen is that biofuels are hydrocarbons. That's understandable, since biofuel projects are simply trying to mimic, hasten and optimize the same processes that formed oil in the first place. However, that means that a hydrogen-burning vehicle can't use biofuels, at least not without losing massive amounts of efficiency.

    • Even easier: put it in a blimp ;)

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "However, that means that a hydrogen-burning vehicle can't use biofuels, at least not without losing massive amounts of efficiency."

      If your powerplant is a turbine that trims-to-temperature it can efficiently burn both and mixtures thereof. Capstone turbine-powered hybrid buses work just fine, and other turbine styles can do it too.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        You read the comment, but you missed the point. The hydrogen has to come from somewhere. If you're going to use a turbine anyway, then there is absolutely zero benefit from using hydrogen as opposed to fuel oil, while meanwhile there are numerous massive drawbacks. The only way it makes sense to use hydrogen is if you're going to use a fuel cell, and that idea has yet to be proven to have any practical merit. As long as fuel cell production is an energy intensive process, and their recycling as well (take i

    • by timothyf (615594)

      As has been noted elsewhere, hydrogen fuel cells are very efficient at converting hydrogen back into energy (around 75%). Is there anything comparable for hydrocarbons? Today's engines are only around 20% efficient at doing that.

      • Talked to anyone actually doing research on fuel cells? I have. To keep the temperatures down in a "safe" range, the power output isn't much. Kick the power output to a usable level, like to run a drive motor, and now you're carting around a bomb. It's a barely controlled reaction (reaction = explosion).

        Internal combustion motors aren't that efficient, micro-turbine generators are loud but better, and both are comparatively safe/inexpensive.

        • It's a barely controlled reaction (reaction = explosion).

          You *do* know what goes on inside an internal combustion engine, right?

          • Unless I am driving a diesel I sure hope my fuel isn't detonating (exploding) in the combustion chamber. I much prefer the very rapid deflagration that should be happening if I am driving a non diesel engine.
            • A low explosive is still an explosive. Detonation or supersonic shock wave is a symptom of a high explosive. A rapid deflagration can still be an explosion.
        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Internal combustion motors aren't that efficient, micro-turbine generators are loud but better

          They are? They must not be anything like regular gas turbines, because those things are horribly inefficient (much less efficient than any piston engine).

          • Concerning efficiency the best reciprocating piston engines get just over 50% but those are large 2 stroke marine diesels. Large combined cycle gas turbine can get just of 60% efficiency so they are more efficient than a reciprocating piston engine but you are dealing with something the size of a building. The marine diesels are also the size of a building too and will have bores and strokes measured in meters (typically in the range of 1-2 meters).
            • by Grishnakh (216268)

              Interesting. I was thinking of aviation engines, which are quite a bit smaller. There, piston engines always get better efficiency, but they don't have the same power-to-weight ratio, so smaller aircraft almost always have piston engines while the big ones have turbines. But small turbines do exist, and sometimes people use them in experimental craft, but the fuel consumption is always several times higher than the avgas engines. I think at least one of the small airplane makers (Cessna?) is even workin

              • JetA and diesel are more similar than diesel and gasoline so I don't think it would take much modification. The great thing about diesels is that they can run on almost anything combustible much like turbines will.
    • by horza (87255)

      How is this modded '+4 Insightful'? It's not that hard to create cheap simulated oil from CO2 and water? What crackpot modded this up? Not being able to burn the statistically insignificant amount of biofuels is a nail in hydrogen's coffin? And the killer line that burning biofuels in a hydrogen engine will be massively inefficient... the whole combustion engine is massively inefficient hence moving to fuel cell technology that bumps efficiency up from 25% in an IC to currently around 60% for fuel cell. Oh

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        Oh plus you don't lose energy idling or through a transmission.

        You don't have to lose energy idling with an ICE either; there's engines now that automatically shut down instead of idling, and instantly restart when the throttle is pressed. They generally require a sizable electric motor though, so you usually only see this with hybrid-electric vehicles.

        There's no way around the transmission though, but to be fair, most pure-electric vehicle designs also have a transmission (with 1 or 2 speeds), because ele

    • You seem to be ignoring the output of burned hydro carbons, namely carbon dioxide

      The true hydrogen fanbois are looking forward to fuel cells that provide a portable power source that has no CO2 emissions. That is no easy bill to fill, so I at least can understand their joy at finding a way to transport hydrogen safely since it has been one of the major red herrings in the push to use fuel cells

      As far as a higher cost to produce Hydrogen goes... the key words are portable and non-portable. Non-portable power

      • by FooAtWFU (699187)
        Way to miss the GP's point. It doesn't matter if an engine burns hydrocarbons and emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if that carbon dioxide came from the atmosphere to begin with.

        Unlike traditional pollutants, nobody cares about a little carbon dioxide output at any given point, because it's nothing next to what's already floating around in the air.

        • by FlyingGuy (989135)

          Hmmm lets see... 200 plus million years to sequester all that CO2 and we have released, at least by some estimates over 50% of it in a little over 200 hundred years...

          Nope, no effect at all. Move along, nothing to see here.

          • by kvezach (1199717)
            Let's try that again. The original poster's point is that if you want a Magical Zero-Emissions Hydrogen Storage System, you just take the hydrogen you were to use, combine it with carbon (from CO2 from the air), then ship your hydrocarbon around. The guy at the other end then burns the stuff and the CO2 you used is released back into the air. Voila, zero emissions.

            (I still think sodium or lithium borohydride would be a better reversible energy carrier, as it has a greater energy density than gasoline and
      • Nuclear is portable (it's used on military ships), just not at an individual automobile level. :)
    • by rts008 (812749)

      When your hydrocarbon fuel has the same emission characteristics as hydrogen fuel, then I will pay attention to your sales pitch. Until then, hydrocarbon fuel emissions are a deal breaker for me.

      As I see it, the two major problems with hydrocarbon fuels (petroleum based), are emissions, and conflict/war over petroleum deposits.

      Your cracking CO2 and H2O, and/or bio-fuels, only addresses the conflict/wars over deposits, and thumbs it's nose at the emissions issue.
      No thanks, not a viable solution to me.

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Emissions = Hitler. Can you list them? If the word "carbon" appears anywhere in a list of emissions from a fuel produced by cracking atmospheric CO2, then please don't bother.
  • Storing Hydrogen in Carbon brings back memories of this: [] :D

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @07:06PM (#37474042)
    At least it did this morning. Might have changed until now. However, quote:

    Sow-Hsin Chen, MIT professor emeritus in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering and senior author of a paper describing the new method, says it should make it possible to increase the storage capacity of the activated carbon material by fine-tuning the size and concentrations of the particles of platinum and carbon. The team also hopes to identify a catalyst that isn't quite as expensive as platinum.

    So who the hell approved a story that says "Now an MIT-led research team has demonstrated a method that could allow hydrogen to be stored inexpensively at room temperature." If you follow the link it says that a way to inexpensively store hydrogen at room temperature is exactly what they haven't found.

    • by horza (87255)

      The same editor that lied about a French nuclear leak []?


      • by tp1024 (2409684)
        Then I would surely like to retract the statement I made [] back then. Because once can be a mistake, twice starts to look suspicious. There are limits to far one can grant people the benefit of the doubt. This limit has now been reached. (And will certainly be broken if/when this happens again.)
    • [An inexpensive storage method] is exactly what they haven't found

      You are jumping to conclusions, aren't you? The expense of Chen's method depends on how much platinum he uses. Without knowing the quantity, you can't conclude that his method is costly.

      • The very fact that it uses platinum at all makes it costly - regardless of the amount. There is very little platinum in catalytic converters but that does not stop people from stealing them off of cars/trucks. At the time of writing this platinum was selling at 1761.00 a troy ounce.
        • by BlueMonk (101716)

          After reading the article, it seemed to me like this was a proof of concept and they're still working (optimistically) on finding a cheaper substitute for the platinum.

  • And think they invented a balloon?

    Yes yes I know hydrogen atoms will slip through the pores in the latex. And also react violently if set on fire. And stuff. But you could celebrate your "invention" with colorful hydrogen storage devices!

  • Ozone layer holes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pr0f3550r (553601) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @09:48PM (#37475318)
    This is important and significant because Hydrogen is very bad for the Ozone layer. Loose hydrogen is so light that it attempts to leave earth and settles in the upper layers of the heterosphere or is whisked off into space. However, many molecules of H2 never make it that far because they are very reactive in the presence of ozone. Research from Caltech indicates that Hydrogen In the upper atmosphere they can easily turn to H2O and produce the harmful presence of upper atmosphere water. Eventually this will fall back to earth but it will have unintended consequences as H2 is ozone depleting and water is an inhibitor to ozone creation. [] []

  • The company Amminex [] have invented a technology that can store ammonia (for NOx emission filters, which is their primary business now). They claim this also enables solid hydrogen storage. Indeed, this was their primary research goal. The emission filter business apparently just happened to pick up on one of their side products.
  • I store hydrogen at room temperature all the time. Especially after i eat some chili. FARTGAS!!!!
  • They already found out 2 years ago that readily available chicken feathers, when carbonized, make perfect carbon nanotubes to store hydrogen. I wonder if using platinum doping with that will have more benefits than costs associated to it. See [] for details on the feathers.
  • Carbon fiber, Bisphenol A & B, and a catalyst wet the carbon fiber with the resin, and wrap it around a cylinder I've made thousands of Hydrogen storage tanks at my job, they operate in the 10,000 psi range, I could tell you what they burst at, but it may be a trade secret let's just say it's high enough that you won't have to worry, your valves and o-rings will fail before the tank itself production is not an issue, we can ramp up to do thousands of these easily enough, the process for building t

    • by manofherb (211786)

      just read the article and would like to add that our tanks are not heavy, they check in at about 30 lbs empty

  • They are trying to find something that Hydrogen dissolves into for better storage density at low pressure than pure hydrogen? The same way acetylene is stored dissolved in acetone? (Acetylene will auto-react at relatively low pressures, so it can't just be shoved into a bottle the way propane can.) Rather than a solid, can someone refresh my memory on what liquids Hydrogen can dissolve in?

    Also, the points about just combining the hydrogen with carbon are valid - for use with current production/storage/usa

  • ...and make it economically? The scientists are conjecturing, based on observations from an inelastic neutron scattering experiment on activated carbon coated with a platinum catalyst, that a low pressure H2 storage system could be developed, but seem to acknowledge that it would be expensive. If they'd actually constructed a storage device, I might be less cynical, but this seems to be another case of the theoretically possible being interesting but not economically feasible. From the article:

    The team also hopes to identify a catalyst that isn't quite as expensive as platinum.

    For what

  • I hear hydrogen bound to oxygen can be stored at all temperatures up to 100C. It's more economical to distribute the energy than the hydrogen. It is even more economical to distribute the process of generation and the raw materials.

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