Hydrogen is in the headlines these days as a viable fuel for trains, planes, and vehicles that run on fuel cells.
However, a key roadblock to hydrogen’s use is storage: the gas has to be kept under high pressure, which not only requires a lot of energy to compress it but also sharpens the risks of explosions.
Now researchers at Kyushu University have figured out a way to store and transport hydrogen at normal pressures with no risk of blow-ups.
The group began by looking at enzymes called hydrogenases.
A hydrogen atom has one proton and one electron. Hydrogenase enzymes have the power to separate the two and store them.
By studying the enzymes’ electrochemical means of achieving that feat, the scientists developed a nickel-based compound that can do the same thing. The material can store the electrons at room temperature and pressure for at least three months and, potentially, for years.
Similar attempts in the past have been successful only by using exotic metals such as iridium, platinum, or rhodium. Using nickel can slash the cost of solid-state hydrogen storage.
The Kyushu group plans to collaborate with industrial partners to refine the storage material and reduce its cost and to try to lengthen the storage time and efficiency.
TRENDPOST: Hydrogen-fueled vehicles are following the same trajectory as electric vehicle (EV) development.
The drive train was created first; fuel cells have been up and running for decades. Widespread commercialization has been delayed by problems with fuel supply. With EVs, that’s been batteries that are too expensive and a lack of public, on-demand charging stations; with hydrogen, it’s been a lack of transport, storage, and fueling stations.
Both are now being addressed, leading to affordable, long-range EV batteries and practical hydrogen fuel systems becoming part of the global energy mix within 10 years.