Researchers develop hydrogen storage


0512_Next_HydrogenA team at the University of Oregon has developed a new storage material for hydrogen.

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By Linda Baker

0512_Next_HydrogenWhen hydrogen is used in a fuel cell to generate electricity, the only byproducts are heat and water. Although the absence of greenhouse gas emissions makes hydrogen an attractive alternative fuel, hydrogen gas is bulkier than liquid fuels, so it is difficult to transport or store. Now a team at the University of Oregon has developed a new storage material for hydrogen that differs from many others because it is liquid, which could make it easier to incorporate into the existing transportation infrastructure. “We want to store hydrogen so it flows like gas,” says Shih-Yuan Liu, a professor of materials science. The new material, a boron/nitrogen-based liquid called “BY-methylcyclopentane,” works safely at room temperature and is air- and moisture-stable. Some other liquid-storage materials are explosive. “A pretty big downside,” Liu says. Funded by a $2 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, the team is now working on improving the efficiency and capacity of the material, and Liu says the research has “near-term market potential” for stationary generators and military applications. The long-term goal, he adds, is a hydrogen-based transportation system that would “reduce our carbon footprint and provide independence from foreign oil.”




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