Brookhaven Scientists Working Toward Practical Hydrogen-Storage Materials

Mar 15, 2006
Peter Sutter
Peter Sutter

Hydrogen-storage materials hold the promise of supporting many exciting new technologies, such as clean, efficient hydrogen fuel cells for automobiles. At the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, scientists are working toward this goal by studying the basic mechanisms that underlie reversible hydrogen storage in certain materials.

Currently, a main factor limiting the development of hydrogen-based energy technologies, such as fuel cells, is the ability to store a sufficient amount of hydrogen in a way that allows for easy and safe refueling. One of the most promising materials is titanium-doped sodium alanate, a type of material known as a “complex metal hydride.” Sodium alanate, on its own, is able to store and release a reasonable amount of hydrogen, but refueling the spent material requires it to be “doped” with a small amount of titanium. The titanium atoms allow sodium alanate to work efficiently at realistic temperatures and pressures.

“Our work focuses on how titanium atoms facilitate the hydrogen uptake in sodium alanate,” said Brookhaven material scientist Peter Sutter, a member of the research team. “Understanding the atomic mechanisms that govern this process will guide us in a targeted search for a viable material for large-scale hydrogen storage.”

A key step in the refueling process is the splitting of incoming hydrogen molecules (hydrogen atoms tend to bind in pairs) into single hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen then combines with aluminum and sodium to form crystalline sodium alanate. Sutter and his colleagues predict that the titanium atoms bind to the aluminum atoms in such a way as to create “active sites” where hydrogen molecules are separated and ultimately incorporated. These active sites are being studied experimentally using scanning tunneling microscopy, a powerful imaging technique that is able to image individual atoms at surfaces.

Erik Muller, a postdoctoral student working with Sutter and a research associate in Brookhaven’s hydrogen storage research team, will discuss their results at the March meeting of the American Physical Society in Baltimore, Maryland. He will give his talk at 9:48 a.m. on Wednesday, March 15, in Room 312 of the Baltimore Convention Center.

This research is funded by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Source: BNL, by Laura Mgrdichian

Explore further: A new generation of storage—ring

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Water Motions Revealed (w/ Video)

May 21, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Gaze into a glass of water, and you're unlikely to see much more than your own reflection. But gaze a little deeper using a microscope -- or, better yet, a series of laser pulses and detectors ...

New aluminum alloy stores hydrogen

Nov 05, 2013

We use aluminum to make planes lightweight, store sodas in recyclable containers, keep the walls of our homes energy efficient and ensure that the Thanksgiving turkey is cooked to perfection. Now, thanks ...

Astronomers open window into Europa's ocean

Mar 05, 2013

(Phys.org) —With data collected from the mighty W. M. Keck Observatory, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) astronomer Mike Brown—known as the Pluto killer for discovering a Kuiper-belt object ...

Recommended for you

A new generation of storage—ring

22 hours ago

A bright synchrotron source that emits over a wide part of the electromagnetic spectrum from the infrared to hard X-rays is currently being built in Lund, Sweden. The MAX IV facility presents a range of technical ...

Flying qubits make for a highly resilient quantum memory

Oct 31, 2014

(Phys.org) —In a quantum memory, the basic unit of data storage is the qubit. Because a qubit can exist in a superposition state of both "1" and "0" at the same time, it can process much more information ...

Universe may face a darker future

Oct 31, 2014

New research offers a novel insight into the nature of dark matter and dark energy and what the future of our Universe might be.

User comments : 0

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.