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Scientists create new material for enabling hydrogen power revolution

Researchers have discovered a material which can be useful for tapping the potential of hydrogen-driven vehicles. It is published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science. Since fossil fuels are being depleted at a high rate, scientists all over the world are searching for optimum replacements to the vehicles running on various fossil fuels. Alternatives such as battery-powered automobiles, solar vehicles are also explored.

I believe fuel cells could end the 100-year reign of the internal combustion engine.--William Clay Ford Click To Tweet

Apart from these options, another useful option is hydrogen power. But what has stopped its full utilization is the price and complexity of the hydrogen-powered fuel systems. A group of scientists led by David Antonelli, professor at Lancaster University has found a solution to this. They discovered a material which is obtained from manganese hydride. This new material is used for making molecular sieves in the tanks. These tanks have hydrogen stored inside them and they function with the help of fuel cells in the hydrogen system.

This material is named as KMH-1 (Kubas Manganese Hydride-1). It will help in making the design of the tanks much smaller, cost-effective than the current technologies in hydrogen fuel systems. The most promising fact is that it would outperform the vehicles which are battery powered in a significant way.

Antonelli who leads the Physical Chemistry Department at Lancaster University and has been involved in this field of research for 15 years commented that the price of manufacturing of this entity is less and the energy density is much greater than the regular batteries which are powered by lithium ions. It could mean that the systems using hydrogen fuel may cost approximately five times less than the lithium-ion system while providing increased lengths of the journey.

This has been possible due to a chemical process named Kubas binding. In this process, the hydrogen storage is done by increasing the distance between two atoms in a hydrogen molecule and it occurs at room temperature. Thus the necessity for splitting and binding the atomic bonds is eliminated and hence it reduces high energy requirements and the complex machinery.

This material also removes the necessity for cooling, as it absorbs any extra energy. This is a major advantage as the presence of cooling equipment in a vehicle makes it expensive and also reduces efficiency.

Hydrogen is absorbed by this material at pressures equal to 120 atmospheres which is much lesser than a scuba tank. It is then released into fuel cells when this pressure is released. Compared to current technologies, this material can store a lot more hydrogen in the same volume.

Apart from vehicles, scientists believe that this can be used in many other fields.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter monitor water cycle on red planet

Discovery of new water cycle on Mars explains its barren nature

The race to Mars has always been an anticipating competition between countries as to who reaches the Red Planet and carries out exploration of the atmosphere and its terrain and soil. It has been the dream of mankind to set up colonies on Mars, many private institutions are emerging in the race to the Red Planet.

Only until recently, a new water cycle was discovered on the red planet, and thus it has explained as to why the planet lies barren without water and with red soil. The cycle dates back to around a billion years ago when Mars was all filled with water, waterlogged with rivers and oceans but since then Mars has estimated to lose close to 80% of its water due to the ultraviolet radiations from the sun and split the water molecules into hydrogen and its radicals. The study was recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.

However, the hydrogen gas readily escaped and even today Mars is believed to be leaking hydrogen into space. The atmosphere of Mars has a troposphere, which is a bit similar to that of Earth. Ideally, this layer should restrain gases from rising up the atmosphere and cause rain as the gases evaporate which is not the case. However now scientists have found answers to why Mars could not retain the water it had present on its surface whereas our mother Earth can easily retain all the water.

They have predicted that on Mars there is summer season every two years in the southern hemisphere, during this phase the water vapour gradually rises from its surface to the atmosphere however from there winds carry this gases to the north pole and where it settles down once again but some part of this gas is released into the open space.

Scientists have found an unknown mechanism by which there is a hole being formed in this cycle, which is the reason the gases are sent out into space. Scientists have been simulating the situation at Moscow Institute of Physics and Max Plank Institute of Solar System Research which is situated in Germany.

Another contributing factor to the absence of water on Mars is the frequent dust storms; the dust absorbs the radiation of the sun and is known to increase the Martian temperature by close to 30˚C. This affects the transformation of ice into water vapour and vice versa

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More about water on Red Planet: Traces of groundwater system found on Mars


Physicists clocked the ghostly speed of quantum tunnelling

In quantum physics, there has always been suspense that how some particles travel from one place to another, passing impenetrable barriers, without having enough energy to do so. This question has puzzled the scientists for decades that how a particle can ‘tunnel‘ without energy.

In order to understand this process, scientists have been carrying out various experiments. In one such experiment using hydrogen atoms, it was seen that this ‘tunneling‘ process happens instantaneously. This instant tunneling has been investigated before as well, but now scientists have finally observed this process with the help of an instrument called the attoclock.

Robert Sang from Griffith University in Australia stated, “When we use atomic hydrogen, it is observed that there is no delay in what we can measure.”

The attoclock sets up 1,000 ultra-short pulses of light per second to interact with the hydrogen atom, pulses totaling 30 gigawatts of instantaneous power. This created a condition in which the single electron of the atom could be pushed through a barrier.

Sang said, “There’s a well-defined point where we can start that interaction, and there’s a point where we know where that electron should come out if it’s instantaneous. So anything that varies from that time we know that it’s taken that long to go through the barrier. That’s how we can measure how long it takes. It came out to agree with the theory within experimental uncertainty being consistent with instantaneous tunneling.”

It was one of the most mysterious studies of quantum mechanics that the scientists now have a better handle on. The new knowledge that the attoclock provides could be useful anywhere where quantum tunneling is involved including electron microscope and the transistor in our computers.

Quantum tunneling has also been suggested as a way of harvesting energy from excess radiation and waste heat, so more we understand the process of how it actually works, the better. The new researches can be carried out in order to understand how other kinds of atoms tunnel through the barriers and at what speed.

Now that we have learned this process, we can use this process for other atoms possibly to learn about new physics”, says one of the researchers, Igor Litvinyuk from Griffith University.

Published Researchhttps://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1028-3