More Solid than Solid: A Potential Hydrogen-Storage Compound

April 2, 2008
More solid than solid: A potential hydrogen-storage compound
MOF-74 resembles a series of tightly packed straws comprised mostly of carbon atoms (white balls) with columns of zinc ions (blue balls) running down the walls. Heavy hydrogen molecules (green balls) adsorbed in MOF-74 pack into the tubes more densely than they would in solid form. Credit: NIST

One of the key engineering challenges to building a clean, efficient, hydrogen-powered car is how to design the fuel tank. Storing enough raw hydrogen for a reasonable driving range would require either impractically high pressures for gaseous hydrogen or extremely low temperatures for liquid hydrogen. In a new paper researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Center for Neutron Research have demonstrated that a novel class of materials could enable a practical hydrogen fuel tank.

A research team from NIST, the University of Maryland and the California Institute of Technology studied metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). One of several classes of materials that can bind and release hydrogen under the right conditions, they have some distinct advantages over competitors. In principle they could be engineered so that refueling is as easy as pumping gas at a service station is today, and MOFs don’t require the high temperatures (110 to 500 C) some other materials need to release hydrogen.

In particular, the team examined MOF-74, a porous crystalline powder developed at the University of California at Los Angeles. MOF-74 resembles a series of tightly packed straws comprised of mostly carbon atoms with columns of zinc ions running down the inside walls. A gram of the stuff has about the same surface area as two basketball courts.

The researchers used neutron scattering and gas adsorption techniques to determine that at 77 K (-196 C), MOF-74 can adsorb more hydrogen than any unpressurized framework structure studied to date—packing the molecules in more densely than they would be if frozen in a block.

NCNR scientist Craig Brown says that, though his team doesn’t understand exactly what allows the hydrogen to bond in this fashion, they think the zinc center has some interesting properties.

“When we started doing experiments, we realized the metal interaction doesn’t just increase the temperature at which hydrogen can be stored, but it also increases the density above that in solid hydrogen,” Brown says. “This is absolutely the first time this has been encountered without having to use pressure.”

Although the liquid-nitrogen temperature of MOF-74 is not exactly temperate, it’s easier to reach than the temperature of solid hydrogen (-269 C), and one of the goals of this research is to achieve energy densities great enough to be as economical as gasoline at ambient, and thus less costly, temperatures. MOF-74 is a step forward in terms of understanding energy density, but there are other factors left to be dealt with that, once addressed, could further increase the temperature at which the fuel can be stored. Fully understanding the physics of the interaction might allow scientists to develop means for removing refrigeration or insulation, both of which are costly in terms of fuel economy, fuel production, or both.

Citation: Y. Liu, H. Kabbour, C.M. Brown, D.A. Neumann and C.C. Ahn. Increasing the density of adsorbed hydrogen with coordinatively unsaturated metal centers in metal-organic frameworks. Langmuir, ASAP Article 10.1021/la703864a. Published March 27, 2008.

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

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dachpyarvile
1.4 / 5 (7) Apr 03, 2008
You get me a hydrogen car that can give me over 500 miles on a tank and I will buy one. I can get at least 525 miles on a tank of gasoline with my current gas guzzler; sometimes more.
deepsand
2.4 / 5 (9) Apr 03, 2008
You get me a hydrogen car that can give me over 500 miles on a tank and I will buy one. I can get at least 525 miles on a tank of gasoline with my current gas guzzler; sometimes more.


The difference between the two, though, is not the range but the energy density, which in turn determines what the by-products are.

The energy density mass is a measure ratio of hydrogen atoms per molecule to the total number of atoms per molecule. The energy density by volume of liguid hydrogen is 143, while that of gasoline is 46.9, and that of gasohol (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) is 43.54.

Pure hydrogen yields only water, H20, as a by-product; hydrocarbons, on the other hand, yield at least the additional by-product carbon dioxide, CO2.

While compressed (at 700 bar) hydrogen has the same energy density as liquid, carrying a large tank of compressed hydrogen of a vehicle is no more practical than carrying the liquified form.

Exotic materials with the ability to densely store & release hydrogen at "room" temperatures are the holy grail of fuel technology.
DetWaveRider
4 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2008
the picture caption makes no sense: "Heavy hydrogen molecules (green balls) adsorbed in MOF-74 pack into the tubes more densely than they would in solid form."

Heavy hydrogen? Hydrogen isn't heavy. Or do they mean deuterium?

Why are the green hydrogen balls so big in the picture (I know, it's just a cartoon)? Even deuterium is small...
deepsand
2 / 5 (7) Apr 06, 2008
the picture caption makes no sense: "Heavy hydrogen molecules (green balls) adsorbed in MOF-74 pack into the tubes more densely than they would in solid form."

Heavy hydrogen? Hydrogen isn't heavy. Or do they mean deuterium?

Why are the green hydrogen balls so big in the picture (I know, it's just a cartoon)? Even deuterium is small...
the picture caption makes no sense: "Heavy hydrogen molecules (green balls) adsorbed in MOF-74 pack into the tubes more densely than they would in solid form."

Heavy hydrogen? Hydrogen isn't heavy. Or do they mean deuterium?

Why are the green hydrogen balls so big in the picture (I know, it's just a cartoon)? Even deuterium is small...


Good catch. And, a thorough review shows that only the cited caption employs the word "heavy."

Editorial error?
Star_Gazer
1.7 / 5 (3) May 22, 2008
Did anyone ever thought on what would happen if they smash two of the hydrogen storing straws together at speed close to speed of light? Fusion?! More solid than solid?

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