Tiny buckyballs squeeze hydrogen like giant Jupiter

March 20, 2008

Hydrogen could be a clean, abundant energy source, but it's difficult to store in bulk. In new research, materials scientists at Rice University have made the surprising discovery that tiny carbon capsules called buckyballs are so strong they can hold volumes of hydrogen nearly as dense as those at the center of Jupiter.

The research appears on the March 2008 cover of the American Chemical Society's journal Nano Letters.

"Based on our calculations, it appears that some buckyballs are capable of holding volumes of hydrogen so dense as to be almost metallic," said lead researcher Boris Yakobson, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Rice. "It appears they can hold about 8 percent of their weight in hydrogen at room temperature, which is considerably better than the federal target of 6 percent."

The Department of Energy has devoted more than $1 billion to developing technologies for hydrogen-powered automobiles, including technologies to cost-effectively store hydrogen for use in cars. Hydrogen is the lightest element in the universe, and it is very difficult to store in bulk. For hydrogen cars to be competitive with gasoline-powered cars, they need a comparable range and a reasonably compact fuel system. It's estimated that a hydrogen-powered car with a suitable range will require a storage system with densities greater than those found in pure, liquid hydrogen.

Yakobson said scientists have long argued the merits of storing hydrogen in tiny, molecular containers like buckyballs, and experiments have shown that it's possible to store small volumes of hydrogen inside buckyballs. The new research by Yakobson and former postdoctoral researchers Olga Pupysheva and Amir Farajian offers the first method of precisely calculating how much hydrogen a buckyball can hold before breaking.

Buckyballs, which were discovered at Rice more than 20 years ago, are part of a family of carbon molecules called fullerenes. The family includes carbon nanotubes, the typical 60-atom buckyball and larger buckyballs composed of 2,000 or more atoms.

"Bonds between carbon atoms are among the strongest chemical bonds in nature," Yakobson said. "These bonds are what make diamond the hardest known substance, and our research showed that it takes an enormous amount of internal pressure to deform and break the carbon-carbon bonds in a fullerene."

Using a computer model, Yakobson's research team has tracked the strength of each atomic bond in a buckyball and simulated what happened to the bonds as more hydrogen atoms were packed inside. Yakobson said the model promises to be particularly useful because it is scalable, that is it can calculate exactly how much hydrogen a buckyball of any given size can hold, and it can also tell scientists how overstuffed buckyballs burst open and release their cargo.

If a feasible way to produce hydrogen-filled buckyballs is developed, Yakobson said, it might be possible to store them as a powder.

"They will likely assemble into weak molecular crystals or form a thin powder," he said. "They might find use in their whole form or be punctured under certain conditions to release pure hydrogen for fuel cells or other types of engines."

Source: Rice University

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2 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2008
The number 74% comes to mind, what is the maximum packing density of buckyballs in a container?

But the real question is what does a broken buckyball look like?
1 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2008
WOW 8% hydrogen!
AND you have to puncture, they mean; DESTROY, the exceedingly expensive Buckey balls to release the H2. So lets see - gasoline contains 15.8% hydrogen and Buckey balls a maximum of 8%.

This says to me that squeezing 8% (maybe) H2 into Fullerenes has the same outcome as squeezing as many fairies as possible onto the head of a pin - NOTHING USEFUL. Unless one could substitute an odorant for the hydrogen - now you've got molecular scratch and sniff

BUT - suppose they could squeeze into the fullerene a D2/T2 mixture at "near metalic" density. What would happen when compressed with laser light? OR how about D2 w/ a nanocrystal of Pd or Ti? HMMMMMMM
1 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2008
^^why does 74% come to mind?
4.5 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2008
>Bonds between carbon atoms are among the strongest chemical bonds in nature," Yakobson said. "These bonds are what make diamond the hardest known substance".

Bonds between carbon atoms in diamond are weak C-C sigma bonds, its the fact that carbon atoms are arranged in an isometric-hexoctahedral crystal lattice that makes diamond so strong.
1.5 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2008
^^ Whats stronger than a C-C Sigma Covalent Bond??

I think he's right when he said a C-C Bond is the strongest 'chemical' bond. And Bucky Calls do use a the same Sigma bond as diamond.
Mar 20, 2008
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2.5 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2008
The lattice is what makes diamonds HARD. That's not the same as strength.
3 / 5 (3) Mar 20, 2008
If Deuterium packs as densely I wonder if this could help in Fusion power generation?
Providing the Carbon doesn't poison the plasma it provides a nice small target for ignition lasers.

2.5 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2008
@ShadowRam: Lots of bonds are stronger then C-C sigma bond: H-H, H-B, H-C, H-N, H-O, H-S, H-F, H-Cl, H-Br, C-O, C-B, C-F, these were just examples with carbon or hydrogen, you can find more here:

@gopher65: Yeah, lattice makes it hard not strong my bad
not rated yet Mar 23, 2008
^^why does 74% come to mind?

74% is the most efficient use of volume when packing spherical objects, like oranges in the supermarket.

Of course, this is percentage VOLUME, and Boris is talking about percentage WEIGHT. Someone mentioned that gasoline contains 15.8% hydrogen. I'm not sure if that's percentage volume or percentage mass.

I believe the important figure is percentage mass. The higher percentage mass of hydrogen, the more miles you get. A low percentage volume of hydrogen just means you have less trunk space.
not rated yet Mar 25, 2008
not rated yet Mar 25, 2008

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