A breakthrough that makes hydrogen significantly safer to use and easier to store has been developed. Normally, hydrogen is stored in metal tanks pressurized to put o 10,000 psi for vehicular use. The new process allows hydrogen to he handled, stored and dispensed in much the same way as regular petrol. According to Cella Energy Ltd of the UK, the secret lies in their innovative use of plastic.
Plastic nano particles 30 times smaller than a human hair is used to trap hydrogen gas so that it can be handled in room temperature, under normal atmospheric pressure and yet contain the same amount of hydrogen by weight as a pressurized tank.
The new polymer comes in the form of either a fine micro-fibrous polymer mat that resembles white tissue paper, or a fine polymer powder, micro-bead with diameter s of 0.5 - 5 micrometers, with the hydrogen captured in 50 - 200 nanometer pores within the polymer.
Encased in microbeads, hydrogen flow like liquid through a vehicle's fueling system. The beads can safely be exposed to air and require less heat to drive off the encapsulated hydrogen that is used to propel the vehicle. Spent beads are stored in a separate waste tank and get recycled when drivers refuel their vehicles. For consumers, this breakthrough means they can refuel fuel cell vehicles quickly and safely without fear of the pump bursting in flames. Coupled with hydrogen fuel that's produced using renewable energy, such as SunHydro's solar-powered refueling stations, the new technology offers drivers a fast and safe clean fuel.
In some sense, hydrogen is the perfect fuel; it has three times more energy than petrol per unit of weight, and when it burns it produces nothing but water. But the only way to pack it into a vehicle is to use very high pressures or very low temperatures, both of which are expensive to do. Until this breakthrough.
Stephen Voller, the CEO of Cella Energy Ltd said; Consumers want to be able to travel 300-400 miles before they have to refuel. And when they do have to fill up they want to be able to do it as quickly as possible. Existing hydrogen storage methods do not meet these consumer expectations, but the ones we are developing have the potential to do just this.
Cella Energy claims that low-cost manufacturing processes can be employed to produce the hydrogen encasing substrate such as electrospinning or spraying depending on the required form factor. With some engine modifications, the microbeads can also be added to aviation turbine fuel such as kerosene, JP-8, or JP-4 to lower aircraft emissions.
The economics has already turned in favor of hydrogen with its $100 per barrel equivalent energy cost now competitive with that of crude oil with the bonus of a much cleaner and earth-friendly fuel.