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Research The researchers have created for the first time compounds made from mixtures of calcium hexaboride, strontium and barium hexaboride. From left: Scanning electron microscope image of hexaboride structure at the 5 micron scale; image at the 500 nanometers scale.
Image Credit: Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego

Published on April 18th, 2014 | by James Ayre

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Safer, More-Efficient Storage Of Hydrogen With New Ceramic Materials

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April 18th, 2014 by  

Hydrogen may soon become far easier (and safer) to store, thanks to the development of a new class of ceramic materials by researchers at the University of California, San Diego.

The new materials are composed of a mixture of calcium hexaboride, strontium, and barium hexaboride — this is the first time that such compounds have been made. Importantly, these new compounds can be produced using a rather simple and low-cost method — combustion synthesis.

The researchers have created for the first time compounds made from mixtures of calcium hexaboride, strontium and barium hexaboride. From left: Scanning electron microscope image of hexaboride structure at the 5 micron scale; image at the 500 nanometers scale. Image Credit: Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego

The researchers have created for the first time compounds made from mixtures of calcium hexaboride, strontium and barium hexaboride. From left: Scanning electron microscope image of hexaboride structure at the 5 micron scale; image at the 500 nanometers scale.
Image Credit: Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego


One of the great advantages to the (potential) use of these new materials is that they can be manufactured faster and cheaper than the materials currently in use can be. The research is still in the proof of concept stage, though, so some unknowns remain. The work is a collaboration between UC San Diego, Alfred University in upstate New York and the University of Nevada, Reno.

“We are looking for solid materials that can store and release hydrogen easily,” stated Olivia Graeve, a professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego. “Storing hydrogen has become increasingly important as hydrogen fuel cells become more popular power sources in industry and elsewhere. But hydrogen, the lightest element on the periodic table, is difficult to store. It tends to diffuse through the walls of pressurized tanks. It also needs to be compressed in order to occupy manageable amounts of space when stored.”

The press release from the University of California – San Diego provides more:

The resulting ceramics are essentially crystalline structures in a cage of boron. To store hydrogen, the researchers would swap the calcium, strontium and boron with hydrogen atoms within the cage.

Engineers mixed boron with metal nitrates and organic fuels, such as urea, in a box furnace at temperatures below 400 degrees Celsius — roughly 750 degrees Fahrenheit — cooler than a commercial pizza oven. The nitrates and organic fuels ignite, generating heat that then drives the reaction without the need for an external source of power. This method is known as combustion synthesis.

“It’s a very simple, nice process,” Graeve noted.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • JamesWimberley

    “To store hydrogen, the researchers would swap the calcium, strontium and boron with hydrogen atoms within the cage.” Thi is totally obscure. What happens to the calcium etc? Do the molecules fall out of the cage? If so, how is the storage reversible?

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