Helping make hydrogen a staple for consumer vehicles

May 9, 2007

Carnegie Mellon University's David S. Sholl is working to identify new materials that would help make hydrogen more stable and cost-efficient than fossil fuels. Increased concern about global warming and a need to conserve natural fuel sources prompted Carnegie Mellon researchers to find new, lightweight, low-cost hydrogen-storage materials.

"We are currently studying the use of metal hydrides, such as alanates and borohydrides, to find materials that could ultimately improve the efficiency of hydrogen cars and curb pollution," said Sholl, a professor of chemical engineering.

Essentially, what Sholl and his research team are trying to do is create a new material that will store larger amounts of hydrogen than can be held in a compressed gas tank, but will still be able to easily release the hydrogen to feed the fuel cell for cars of the future. Hydrogen-powered cars run on fuel cells that combine hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce electricity. The only waste emitted is water.

By contrast, engines that burn gasoline emit pollutants, such as carbon dioxide, that cause global warming. U.S. vehicles consume 383 million gallons of gasoline a day — or about 140 billion gallons annually. That's about two-thirds of the total national oil consumption, half of which is imported from overseas.

"Hydrogen can potentially be produced from domestic resources without emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is an attractive vision for a future fuel source," said Sholl, whose research is funded by the Department of Energy and performed in collaboration with Professor Karl Johnson from the University of Pittsburgh.

Once hydrogen is produced, transporting and storing it becomes a problem. As a gas, it requires a lot of energy to compress into a volume small enough to fit into a car. Sholl said that his research has used computational methods to screen a large number of possible storage materials, leapfrogging what could have been a decade of work to test the same materials in the lab.

Sholl argues that this research will help streamline hydrogen storage, cut energy costs and ultimately help hydrogen to replace gasoline.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

Explore further: Energy Efficient Separations: Researchers Use Computational Modeling to Design Improved Membrane Technology

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Seeing quantum motion

August 28, 2015

Consider the pendulum of a grandfather clock. If you forget to wind it, you will eventually find the pendulum at rest, unmoving. However, this simple observation is only valid at the level of classical physics—the laws ...

A little light interaction leaves quantum physicists beaming

August 24, 2015

A team of physicists at the University of Toronto (U of T) have taken a step toward making the essential building block of quantum computers out of pure light. Their advance, described in a paper published this week in Nature ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.