Research team finds new way to affordably produce hydrogen fuel

May 4, 2015 0 By Stephen Vagus

Micromotors have been used to generate hydrogen in an efficient manner

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, have successfully used micromotors to catalyze a reaction that has produced pure hydrogen from a salt solution. This work could eventually lead to the development of affordable and safer hydrogen fuel storage systems. These systems could be used by fuel cell vehicles, which may become a more common sight on the roadways of the United States and other countries in the coming years.

Process uses sodium borohydride to produce hydrogen fuel on-site

The process devised by the research team involves generating hydrogen from sodium borohydride using a micromotor. This process allows hydrogen to be produced on-site and, because of the size of the system being used, could find a home in the auto industry. One of the major challenges currently facing automakers developing fuel cell vehicles is the lack of a hydrogen fuel infrastructure. While hydrogen may be the most abundant element in the known universe, hydrogen fuel stations cannot share this boast. A lack of fueling options may impact the adoption of fuel cell vehicles.

Use of micromotors could have an impact on how hydrogen is produced

hydrogen fuel researchConventional hydrogen production methods are generally considered to be expensive and the production process is reliant on natural gas. Finding new methods to produce hydrogen may overcome this problem. The research team has been using micromotors for this purpose and the team have found that these small motors have the ability to accelerate chemical reactions that produce hydrogen fuel. The process developed by the research team could augment existing hydrogen storage solutions, providing way for hydrogen to be generated by a vehicle rather than forcing drivers to visit a fueling station.

There are some doubts concerning the efficiency of micromotors and the use of sodium borohydride

While the process shows promise, John Turner of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has some doubts. Turner suggests that the odds of creating a hydrogen storage system that will supplant compressed gas solutions are “essentially zero.” Turner also suggests that without ways to efficiently recycle the byproducts extracting hydrogen from sodium borohydride, hydrogen storage solutions may have no value for fuel cell vehicles.