Scientists create new material for enabling hydrogen power revolution

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Hydrogen Fuel Station Sign
Hydrogen fuel can provide power for liquid-propellant rockets, cars and boats. (Credits - Wikimedia Commons)

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.

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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.

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