Hydrogen Storage Gets New Hope from Rechargeable 'Chemical Fuel Tank'

Sep 01, 2009
Ammonia borane (AB) is a potential hydrogen releasing fuel. In this Los Alamos National Laboratory graphic, the AB would be used on-board the vehicle to run a fuel cell. Once hydrogen is released, the AB could then be regenerated and reused. In the scheme shown, the recycle of dehydrogenated fuel back into AB would take place off-board the vehicle.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new method for "recycling" hydrogen-containing fuel materials could open the door to economically viable hydrogen-based vehicles.

In an article appearing today in Angewandte Chemie, Los Alamos National Laboratory and University of Alabama researchers working within the U.S. Department of Energy's Chemical Center of Excellence describe a significant advance in hydrogen storage science.

Hydrogen is in many ways an ideal for transportation. It is abundant and can be used to run a fuel cell, which is much more efficient than internal combustion engines. Its use in a fuel cell also eliminates the formation of gaseous byproducts that are detrimental to the environment.

For use in transportation, a fuel ideally should be lightweight to maintain overall and pack a high energy content into a small volume. Unfortunately, under normal conditions, pure hydrogen has a low energy density per unit volume, presenting technical challenges for its use in vehicles capable of travelling 300 miles or more on a single fuel tank—a benchmark target set by DOE.

Consequently, until now, the universe's lightest element has been considered by some as a lightweight in terms of being a viable transportation fuel.

In order to overcome some of the energy density issues associated with pure hydrogen, work within the Chemical Hydrogen Storage Center of Excellence has focused on using a class of materials known as chemical hydrides. Hydrogen can be released from these materials and potentially used to run a fuel cell. These compounds can be thought of as "chemical fuel tanks" because of their hydrogen storage capacity.

is an attractive example of a chemical because its hydrogen approaches a whopping 20 percent by weight. The chief drawback of ammonia borane, however, has been the lack of energy-efficient methods to reintroduce hydrogen back into the spent fuel once it has been released. In other words, until recently, after hydrogen release, ammonia borane couldn't be adequately recycled.

Los Alamos researchers have been working with University of Alabama colleagues on developing methods for the efficient recycling of ammonia borane. The research team made a breakthrough when it discovered that a specific form of dehydrogenated fuel, called polyborazylene, could be recycled with relative ease using modest energy input. This development is a significant step toward using ammonia borane as a possible energy carrier for transportation purposes.

"This research represents a breakthrough in the field of hydrogen storage and has significant practical applications," said Dr. Gene Peterson, leader of the Chemistry Division at Los Alamos. "The chemistry is new and innovative, and the research team is to be commended on this excellent achievement."

The Chemical Hydrogen Storage Center of Excellence is one of three Center efforts funded by DOE. The other two focus on sorption technologies and storage in metal hydrides. The Center of Excellence is a collaboration between Los Alamos, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and academic and industrial partners.

Referring to the work described in the Angewandte Chemie article, Los Alamos researcher John Gordon, corresponding author for the paper, stated, "Collaboration encouraged by our Center model was responsible for this breakthrough. At the outset there were myriad potential reagents with which to attempt this chemistry."

"The predictive calculations carried out by University of Alabama professor Dave Dixon's group were crucial in guiding the experimental work of Los Alamos postdoctoral researcher Ben Davis," Gordon added. "The excellent synergy between these two groups clearly enabled this advance."

The research team currently is working with colleagues at The Dow Chemical Company, another Center partner, to improve overall chemical efficiencies and move toward large-scale implementation of hydrogen-based fuels within the transportation sector.

More information: An electronic version of the article as it appears in issue 37 of International Edition is available online: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/122453478/PDFSTART

Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory (news : web)

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david_42
3.8 / 5 (5) Sep 01, 2009
"It is abundant and can be used to run a fuel cell, which is much more efficient than internal combustion engines."

Sadly wrong. There is NO free hydrogen on the planet, except what has been manufactured by burning hydrocarbons or using massive quantities of electricity.
Parsec
4 / 5 (6) Sep 01, 2009
"It is abundant and can be used to run a fuel cell, which is much more efficient than internal combustion engines."


Sadly wrong. There is NO free hydrogen on the planet, except what has been manufactured by burning hydrocarbons or using massive quantities of electricity.



Actually, any heat source can be used to create H2. This includes solar, nuclear, etc. It is true the heat source has to be quite concentrated, but that is an engineering obstacle, not a chemical or thermodynamic one.
david_42
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 01, 2009
Not talking about what can be done, but what is. Regardless of the heat source, cracking out hydrogen is an energetically inefficient process. I am speaking from direct experience.
Velanarris
5 / 5 (3) Sep 01, 2009
Hydrogen is energy storage, not energy generation.

That being said, it's a great storage medium.
kirel
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 01, 2009
Not talking about what can be done, but what is. Regardless of the heat source, cracking out hydrogen is an energetically inefficient process. I am speaking from direct experience.


True currently, but just another engineering hurdle to overcome. And expected by many experts to be very feasible to do.
El_Nose
4.7 / 5 (3) Sep 01, 2009
the issue everyone has been getting back to Vel is the fact that generating enough hydrogen to make a hydrogen based energy economy viable is a costly exercise. It takes a lot of energy to free hydrogen. And most of our processes do it ineffeiciently.

Its like superconducting fibers --- if you could install it all across the country you would cut energy generation in half because more energy goes into transportation than in usage... but is it economically viable... the cost to get there is makes it not worth pressing for it to be done today but gradually and into the far future.

We are rushing to get to our new energy sources and in doing so we are blindly groping and PAYING for the ineffiecnt processes we currently know of to get there.

--- in light of those statements i am for any and all advancement - I just like playing deveil's advocate to causes -- have a happy day
Birger
1.5 / 5 (2) Sep 01, 2009
Question: would extracting hydrogen from methane require excessive energy? There is methane in ocean-floor chlatrates and in natural gas, but I have not heard of fuel cells capable of using methane directly being near mass production. Hydrogen fuel cells are, however, a mature technology (for reasons of low efficiency, I am ruling out using methane in ordinary engines).
sender
1.5 / 5 (2) Sep 01, 2009
plasmafication of garbage has proven efficient in hydrogen reclamation, maybe we can process sea water using plasmafication technology also.
kcameron
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 01, 2009
I'll bet the oil companies are helping fund this research. They are, no doubt, getting desperate to find ways to blunt the oncoming wave of battery electric vehicles. They'll do anything they can to convince the public that practical hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are just around the corner. They know that a large-scale hydrogen economy is unlikely. The longer they can obfuscate that fact, the more money they can make on the remaining cheaply produced crude oil. If the hydrogen economy somehow takes off, they know that the only reasonably priced source will be from steam reformed methane which they'll gladly supply.

The oil companies were wildly successful using the same strategy in California in the late 90's. They convinced regulators to eliminate the zero-emission vehicle mandate in return for a promise of soon to be delivered mass-produced fuel cell cars. Had they failed, battery and electric vehicle technology would have advanced much further than it has so far.

Providing hydrogen in the form of liquids (as in this article) plays into big-oil's hands even better. In the unlikely event that the system is widely adopted, it shuts off the alternative of consumers generating their own hydrogen at home (grossly over-priced and inefficient though that is).
E_L_Earnhardt
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 01, 2009
"Methane" leaks scare me! India's "air car" still sounds better even with 3,000 lb pressure tanks. I lived on a submarine with these quite confortably!
Small leaks didn't matter!
Kedas
2 / 5 (4) Sep 02, 2009
Why does everyone think that H2 is a solution?
These are greenhouse gases (H2O, CO2, O3, CH4, N2O)
Anyone recognize the first one in the list?
Yes, that is what you get if you burn H2.
Basically we try to replace a CO2 problem with a H2O problem.
MrFred
5 / 5 (2) Sep 02, 2009
Why does everyone think that H2 is a solution?
These are greenhouse gases (H2O, CO2, O3, CH4, N2O)
Anyone recognize the first one in the list?
Yes, that is what you get if you burn H2.
Basically we try to replace a CO2 problem with a H2O problem.


Um...help me out here...what's the problem with H2O again? Anybody?
Velanarris
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 02, 2009
I'll bet the oil companies are helping fund this research. They are, no doubt, getting desperate to find ways to blunt the oncoming wave of battery electric vehicles. They'll do anything they can to convince the public that practical hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are just around the corner. They know that a large-scale hydrogen economy is unlikely. The longer they can obfuscate that fact, the more money they can make on the remaining cheaply produced crude oil. If the hydrogen economy somehow takes off, they know that the only reasonably priced source will be from steam reformed methane which they'll gladly supply.



The oil companies were wildly successful using the same strategy in California in the late 90's. They convinced regulators to eliminate the zero-emission vehicle mandate in return for a promise of soon to be delivered mass-produced fuel cell cars. Had they failed, battery and electric vehicle technology would have advanced much further than it has so far.



Providing hydrogen in the form of liquids (as in this article) plays into big-oil's hands even better. In the unlikely event that the system is widely adopted, it shuts off the alternative of consumers generating their own hydrogen at home (grossly over-priced and inefficient though that is).


Why would the oil companies have any sort of investment in a technology that can supercede them faster than PHEVs can? Couple that with the fact there will be many oil burning power plants needed to support expansion of the grid for PHEVs since wind and solar are so inefficient for their power to footprint ratio, and your assertion becomes even less credible.
Adriab
5 / 5 (2) Sep 02, 2009
Why does everyone think that H2 is a solution?

These are greenhouse gases (H2O, CO2, O3, CH4, N2O)

Anyone recognize the first one in the list?

Yes, that is what you get if you burn H2.

Basically we try to replace a CO2 problem with a H2O problem.




Um...help me out here...what's the problem with H2O again? Anybody?


So, vaporized H2O does behave as a greenhouse gas, but the amount created by vehicles running a fuel cell would be negligible compared to the amount produced by the ocean under sunny conditions.
kcameron
3 / 5 (2) Sep 02, 2009
Why would the oil companies have any sort of investment in a technology that can supercede them faster than PHEVs can? Couple that with the fact there will be many oil burning power plants needed to support expansion of the grid for PHEVs since wind and solar are so inefficient for their power to footprint ratio, and your assertion becomes even less credible.


I already explained it. Hydrogen produced from methane (natural gas) will be far cheaper than that produced by electrolysis. That means oil (and gas) companies will still be able to sell vast amounts of their product in the unlikely event that the upcoming movement from oil-based transportation veers toward hydrogen. Also, it's obvious that a large-scale hydrogen economy and fuel cells are at least a few decades away. By advocating hydrogen, they are hoping to delay the transition from oil until the last of the cheap produced oil is gone.

Virtually no electric grid power is produced from oil. That's why big-oil is trying to blunt the current move toward battery electric vehicles.
Velanarris
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 02, 2009
Kc, you need to think outside the US. Oil power is a big player overseas.

As a secondary, H2 from methane will not outpace H2 from water for the simple fact that you can't produce anywhere near as much H2 from methane. In addition to this is the fact that you can stick H2 from water devices ANYWHERE with solar and wind power. Even on a local level to the point where everyone will have their own H2 generator.

Think outside the norm. PHEV is horridly ineffcient for our current grid and is supported by the coal industry. That alone should show you there's a hidden detriment beyond the harsh environmental cost of creating the batteries, namely the need for more "temporary" coal plants in the US.
jerryd
1 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2009
Facts are you can go 4x's farther on the same base energy with an EV than with H2.

Big oil, arab's are scared to death of EV's and why Chevron bought the NiMh battery patents and stopped Toyota from making EV's and anyone from making them in EV sizes. They only let NiMh up to 10 amphrs to be made vs the 50-200amphjr ones needed for EV's.

They have had various H2 storage methods for decades, liquid is probably the best, but the ineff of H2 is way to high to probably ever be practical.
goldengod
1 / 5 (2) Sep 06, 2009
We have gross inefficiencies in the current energy production technologies across the board.

The best way forward is increased efficiency.

Using solar, wind, hydro to generate electricity and hydrogen for reuse in transportation is a good idea. The real dilemma is why it's taking so long for the cleaner and more energy efficient industries to gain critical mass when compared to oil, coal and nuclear.
Velanarris
1 / 5 (1) Sep 06, 2009
Facts are you can go 4x's farther on the same base energy with an EV than with H2.
Have any evidence to that effect? According to both Honda and Toyota, the only companies with a manufactured H2 based vehicle on the market H2 is more efficient than PHEV due to transmission losses that you don't encounter with localized H2 generation.

Couple that with the fact that you can't locally generate enough juice for PHEV and you're looking at expanding the coal and oil infrastructure jsut to support peak usage.

There's a reason why coal and oil back the PHEV industry and shout down H2. One method cuts them out, the other reinforces their grip.


Big oil, arab's are scared to death of EV's and why Chevron bought the NiMh battery patents and stopped Toyota from making EV's and anyone from making them in EV sizes. They only let NiMh up to 10 amphrs to be made vs the 50-200amphjr ones needed for EV's.
Again we need evidence of this. Chevron bought those patents to prevent GE from owning them.


They have had various H2 storage methods for decades, liquid is probably the best, but the ineff of H2 is way to high to probably ever be practical.

H2 is storage, not transport or production, so how exactly is it more inefficient than using our current high volt infrastructure at a whopping 50% loss per 100 miles.

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