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Clean Transport hydrogen car

Published on October 6th, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz

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Scientists Reach Hydrogen Storage Milestone

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October 6th, 2008 by  

hydrogen car

Hydrogen cars may be feasible sooner than previously thought thanks to the efforts of a research team at the University of Crete in Greece. The scientists have developed a hydrogen storage model that can store up to 41 grams of hydrogen per liter— almost matching the US Department of Energy’s target of 45 grams per liter.

The storage structure consists of graphene sheets that are only one atom thick connected by vertical columns of carbon nanotubes. Hydrogen is stored in the gaps between the nanotubes and the graphene sheets. The researchers also added lithium ions to the structure for increased storage capacity.

In the past, one of the major drawbacks in using hydrogen for transportation purposes has been a lack of storage ability. This new discovery comes close to removing that hurdle. But since most hydrogen is still produced using fossil fuels, we still have a ways to go before hydrogen-powered cars are ready for commercial use.

>> Related: GM Backs Hydrogen Refueling Station Near LA

Photo Credit: PhysOrg

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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



  • CPOsubs

    Prof. Jerry Woodall of Perdue University has developed what he calls the “Aluminum-enabled Hydrogen Economy”. Basically, gallium (a metal that melts at 87 degrees F.) alloys readily with aluminum at low temperatures. Once the Al/Ga alloy has been formed, water (even salt water) can be applied to the molten mixture.

    Aluminum naturally reacts with oxygen molecules to form aluminum oxide (or alumina). However, the galium in the alloy prevents the protective coating of alumina from halting the reaction. As a result, oxygen is rapidly bonded to the aluminum, freeing hydrogen molecules at ambient pressure & temperature. The entire process requires no more energy than to warm the galium and stire the mixture.

    Once the reformed hydrogen has been converted into water vapor from a fuel cell (usually a PEM variety), condensation may be used to collect liquid water until a sufficient amount may be pumped back to a storage tank upstream of the reactor. This is how the process could work in a demand situation for a car.

    However, if used in a distributed network, the freed hydrogen could be compressed on site for hydrogen powered cars using the graphene “sponge”.

    Bottom line… interesting development. Let’s see how economies of scale can drive the per-unit cost down.

  • Pingback: Graphene Emerging as the Miracle Material of the New Millenium : CleanTechnica

  • http://www.matus1976.com Matus1976

    Hey I know a great hydrogen binding / storage medium – CARBON! These fancy metals and nanotube graphene sheets still don’t meet the energy storage density of a carbon backbone surrounded by hydrogen atoms, i.e. GASOLINE. Hydrogren has a very high gravimetric energy density (energy per weight) but has a very low volumetric energy density, so while your tank of hydrogen will weigh 1/3 your tank of gasoline, it will be 3 times larger (assuming it’s liquid nitrogen, which boils off, and must be cooled) There is more hydrogen in a gallon of gasoline then there is hydrogen in a gallon of liquid hydrogen!

  • http://www.matus1976.com Matus1976

    Hey I know a great hydrogen binding / storage medium – CARBON! These fancy metals and nanotube graphene sheets still don’t meet the energy storage density of a carbon backbone surrounded by hydrogen atoms, i.e. GASOLINE. Hydrogren has a very high gravimetric energy density (energy per weight) but has a very low volumetric energy density, so while your tank of hydrogen will weigh 1/3 your tank of gasoline, it will be 3 times larger (assuming it’s liquid nitrogen, which boils off, and must be cooled) There is more hydrogen in a gallon of gasoline then there is hydrogen in a gallon of liquid hydrogen!

  • http://www.matus1976.com Matus1976

    Hey I know a great hydrogen binding / storage medium – CARBON! These fancy metals and nanotube graphene sheets still don’t meet the energy storage density of a carbon backbone surrounded by hydrogen atoms, i.e. GASOLINE. Hydrogren has a very high gravimetric energy density (energy per weight) but has a very low volumetric energy density, so while your tank of hydrogen will weigh 1/3 your tank of gasoline, it will be 3 times larger (assuming it’s liquid nitrogen, which boils off, and must be cooled) There is more hydrogen in a gallon of gasoline then there is hydrogen in a gallon of liquid hydrogen!

  • http://writertotheworld.com Writer to the World

    Well, this is very big news. The nanotube solution looked like it was way off in the future just a few short years ago.

    NASA has been working on a regenerative fuel cell system in which solar panels release the hydrogen from water, and at the end of the fuel cell cycle, the oxygen and hydrogen are rejoined to reform water. That’s the ultimate but probably far off into the future.

    However, obtaining hydrogen from water is quite cost- and energy-effective when the electricity is generated by wind or solar. Now that they can store it, so much the better. We can also get lots of it from gasoline refining too, but water is the best source.

    I’m kind of disappointed the people at U. of Pittsburgh didn’t get there first. Oh well.

  • http://writertotheworld.com Writer to the World

    Well, this is very big news. The nanotube solution looked like it was way off in the future just a few short years ago.

    NASA has been working on a regenerative fuel cell system in which solar panels release the hydrogen from water, and at the end of the fuel cell cycle, the oxygen and hydrogen are rejoined to reform water. That’s the ultimate but probably far off into the future.

    However, obtaining hydrogen from water is quite cost- and energy-effective when the electricity is generated by wind or solar. Now that they can store it, so much the better. We can also get lots of it from gasoline refining too, but water is the best source.

    I’m kind of disappointed the people at U. of Pittsburgh didn’t get there first. Oh well.

  • Uncle B

    Now that the “Great Depression ” is upon us we can feel less deprived and more grateful for the plug in tandem ultra-light commuter car. The alternative, walking, is still out of the question for commuters, and the gas- guzzlers of the past are now firmly in the past. The impending deflation of the dollar due to the $700 Billion money printing panic extravaganza of the last throes of the corrupt Bush regime has guaranteed $14.00 gallon gasoline and thus seals the lid on the coffin for “The Big Three” car makers and their 1930′s sheet metal technology vehicles. We can only go forward from here into a future, still uncertain, but likely highly dependent on Solar electric development of the South Western U.S. and battery cars for short, plug in to plug in range travel, and possibly Hydrogen cars for long range, if not a total social paradigm shift to electric high speed rail for long range travel. Bio-diesel and natural gas may form a large part of the transportation picture in the near future but in the end we will rely on renewable sustainable technologies and social modifications of our lifestyle and habits to accommodate them. I am looking forward to a drink in the lounge car on the way home, and a freshly charged commuter car to get me to and from my front door!

  • Uncle B

    Now that the “Great Depression ” is upon us we can feel less deprived and more grateful for the plug in tandem ultra-light commuter car. The alternative, walking, is still out of the question for commuters, and the gas- guzzlers of the past are now firmly in the past. The impending deflation of the dollar due to the $700 Billion money printing panic extravaganza of the last throes of the corrupt Bush regime has guaranteed $14.00 gallon gasoline and thus seals the lid on the coffin for “The Big Three” car makers and their 1930′s sheet metal technology vehicles. We can only go forward from here into a future, still uncertain, but likely highly dependent on Solar electric development of the South Western U.S. and battery cars for short, plug in to plug in range travel, and possibly Hydrogen cars for long range, if not a total social paradigm shift to electric high speed rail for long range travel. Bio-diesel and natural gas may form a large part of the transportation picture in the near future but in the end we will rely on renewable sustainable technologies and social modifications of our lifestyle and habits to accommodate them. I am looking forward to a drink in the lounge car on the way home, and a freshly charged commuter car to get me to and from my front door!

  • Ima Worrier

    Goodbye Peak Oil

    Hello Peak Hydrogen

    I fully expect the ‘energy’ corporations to create a situation where they commercialize and control access to the hydrogen storage and delivery systems, then tell us that there’s only ‘so much’ hydrogen available, even though it’s the most abundant element in the universe, by far.

    Hydrogen is the 3rd most abundant element on the earth’s surface; it occurs in various molecular states and is typically extracted from hydrocarbons and although it can be extracted from water (electrolysis) this is a more expensive approach, so far.

    The two most important challenges facing civilization at the moment, in my opinion, are the development of very low-cost, solar-power-driven processes for extracting both potable water and hydrogen from ocean water. This will certainly happen; the only question is whether the processes for doing so will be controlled by commercial interests or will be localized and controlled by the people who need the potable water and the hydrogen for energy.

  • Ima Worrier

    Goodbye Peak Oil

    Hello Peak Hydrogen

    I fully expect the ‘energy’ corporations to create a situation where they commercialize and control access to the hydrogen storage and delivery systems, then tell us that there’s only ‘so much’ hydrogen available, even though it’s the most abundant element in the universe, by far.

    Hydrogen is the 3rd most abundant element on the earth’s surface; it occurs in various molecular states and is typically extracted from hydrocarbons and although it can be extracted from water (electrolysis) this is a more expensive approach, so far.

    The two most important challenges facing civilization at the moment, in my opinion, are the development of very low-cost, solar-power-driven processes for extracting both potable water and hydrogen from ocean water. This will certainly happen; the only question is whether the processes for doing so will be controlled by commercial interests or will be localized and controlled by the people who need the potable water and the hydrogen for energy.

  • http://blog.800hightech.com 800HighTech

    Its about time we stopped just playing around with new energy sources and actually made some available for public use

  • http://blog.800hightech.com 800HighTech

    Its about time we stopped just playing around with new energy sources and actually made some available for public use

  • http://blog.800hightech.com 800HighTech

    Its about time we stopped just playing around with new energy sources and actually made some available for public use

  • Seamus Dubh

    Chris Is on the right track there.

    While Battery and EV cars are great and all they lack range and in some instances power.

    Look at the Chevy Volt on batteries alone it’s got what 40 miles before the generator kicks in. Thats great for common every day city travel. But for any thing that requires long distances traveled (shipping) it’s completely impractical. Then theres the Airline industry, one of the bigger users of petroleum, EV’s are almost impossible for anything larger than a Cessna. This milestone makes these industries one step closer in greenness.

  • Seamus Dubh

    Chris Is on the right track there.

    While Battery and EV cars are great and all they lack range and in some instances power.

    Look at the Chevy Volt on batteries alone it’s got what 40 miles before the generator kicks in. Thats great for common every day city travel. But for any thing that requires long distances traveled (shipping) it’s completely impractical. Then theres the Airline industry, one of the bigger users of petroleum, EV’s are almost impossible for anything larger than a Cessna. This milestone makes these industries one step closer in greenness.

  • Seamus Dubh

    Chris Is on the right track there.

    While Battery and EV cars are great and all they lack range and in some instances power.

    Look at the Chevy Volt on batteries alone it’s got what 40 miles before the generator kicks in. Thats great for common every day city travel. But for any thing that requires long distances traveled (shipping) it’s completely impractical. Then theres the Airline industry, one of the bigger users of petroleum, EV’s are almost impossible for anything larger than a Cessna. This milestone makes these industries one step closer in greenness.

  • GaryB

    Doesn’t tell me anything. Cost. Manufacturability. Safety. Durability. There are so many more factors for creating a store of energy.

  • GaryB

    Doesn’t tell me anything. Cost. Manufacturability. Safety. Durability. There are so many more factors for creating a store of energy.

  • Chris

    By using hydrogen as a means of storage you are able to cheaply store energy generated from solar cell and wind technology. Therefore when you need the energy during say the night you will be able to draw on the energy stored within the hydrogen. This is one milestone, the energy cost of converting water into hydrogen needs to drop as well for this to become viable. However, if these two milestones are met on a commercial scale, storage and conversion cost, then you should expect to see a rapid move towards renewable energy. This conclusion can be drawn from battery storage costing more than a conventional solar cell system for personal homes, as well as battery storage not being an efficient method for large scale uses on wind farms and solar farms. You remove this cost and these technologies become instantly economically viable for millions of people across the world.

  • Chris

    By using hydrogen as a means of storage you are able to cheaply store energy generated from solar cell and wind technology. Therefore when you need the energy during say the night you will be able to draw on the energy stored within the hydrogen. This is one milestone, the energy cost of converting water into hydrogen needs to drop as well for this to become viable. However, if these two milestones are met on a commercial scale, storage and conversion cost, then you should expect to see a rapid move towards renewable energy. This conclusion can be drawn from battery storage costing more than a conventional solar cell system for personal homes, as well as battery storage not being an efficient method for large scale uses on wind farms and solar farms. You remove this cost and these technologies become instantly economically viable for millions of people across the world.

  • Noa

    Batteries need to be replaced though. As far as I understand, Hydrogen is just a “battery” with longer life time. We just need a way to store the gas in a more efficient way and I guess what the researchers are trying to do is create a safe fluid out of it.

    The energy source is what matters though. Before we have an economic alternative of renewable energy to replace the unsustainable energy generation we have today, there is no point in using hydrogen. But it sure as #$%! helps to migrate over to an infrastructure that can be sustained with renewable energy (kinda hard to generate oil using solar, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal, etc). If hydrogen is the answer I don’t know. It seems like a better alternative to batteries, fly wheels, compressed air, and molten salt though.

    I wonder if there is any waste product of using hydrogen that has been of stored using “carbon nanotubes”?

  • Noa

    Batteries need to be replaced though. As far as I understand, Hydrogen is just a “battery” with longer life time. We just need a way to store the gas in a more efficient way and I guess what the researchers are trying to do is create a safe fluid out of it.

    The energy source is what matters though. Before we have an economic alternative of renewable energy to replace the unsustainable energy generation we have today, there is no point in using hydrogen. But it sure as #$%! helps to migrate over to an infrastructure that can be sustained with renewable energy (kinda hard to generate oil using solar, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal, etc). If hydrogen is the answer I don’t know. It seems like a better alternative to batteries, fly wheels, compressed air, and molten salt though.

    I wonder if there is any waste product of using hydrogen that has been of stored using “carbon nanotubes”?

  • Noa

    Batteries need to be replaced though. As far as I understand, Hydrogen is just a “battery” with longer life time. We just need a way to store the gas in a more efficient way and I guess what the researchers are trying to do is create a safe fluid out of it.

    The energy source is what matters though. Before we have an economic alternative of renewable energy to replace the unsustainable energy generation we have today, there is no point in using hydrogen. But it sure as #$%! helps to migrate over to an infrastructure that can be sustained with renewable energy (kinda hard to generate oil using solar, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal, etc). If hydrogen is the answer I don’t know. It seems like a better alternative to batteries, fly wheels, compressed air, and molten salt though.

    I wonder if there is any waste product of using hydrogen that has been of stored using “carbon nanotubes”?

  • KinOfCain

    Regardless of the source of the electrical energy, don’t forget that you still have the efficiency losses in generating the hydrogen from the electricity, the energy required to compress it/store it, and the energy lost in the (albeit efficient) fuel cells. In the end, charging a battery is still more efficient, though slower.

  • KinOfCain

    Regardless of the source of the electrical energy, don’t forget that you still have the efficiency losses in generating the hydrogen from the electricity, the energy required to compress it/store it, and the energy lost in the (albeit efficient) fuel cells. In the end, charging a battery is still more efficient, though slower.

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