New metallic compound could unlock the secrets to efficient hydrogen storage

New metallic compound could unlock the secrets to efficient hydrogen storage

October 11, 2011 0 By Jake Banks

Researchers from the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Japan have discovered a new class of heterometallic molecular structures that may hold the key to a new generation of lightweight fuel cell technology.

The structures are a combination of rare-earth materials that scientists had never thought to explore before. Further research into these structures may help scientist build more efficient fuel cells that would make today’s technology obsolete. For now, researchers will use this new discovery to tackle the issue of hydrogen storage.

Hydrogen gas is one of the most promising alternative fuel sources currently available. The gas, however, is notoriously difficult to store as it must be highly pressurized inside of cryogenic tanks. Most storage tanks are quite large, making them unviable for small vehicles or too expensive to incorporate into a residential energy system.

Using the metallic compound structure, scientists can store massive amounts of hydrogen on a minute scale, allowing the fuel to be used in nearly any energy system.

The compound itself bonds with hydrogen atoms, turning them into a solid. This solid-state hydrogen can be stored in relatively small tanks. When heated, the compound releases the hydrogen atoms, which return to a gaseous state and can be used in a fuel cell. The only problem is that the compound is composed of rare-earth materials, which may not reduce the price of hydrogen energy as a whole.