Boron Buckyballs for Holding Hydrogen Discovered at Brown

Carbon buckyballs (or fullerenes) were discovered several years ago and hold the promise of hydrogen storage. Now, recently researchers at Brown University have discovered boron buckyballs or as they call them borospherenes that may hold hydrogen atoms as well.

According to Brown, “The discovery of buckyballs – soccer-ball-shaped molecules of carbon – helped usher in the nanotechnology era. Now, Lai-Sheng Wang’s research group and colleagues from China have shown that boron, carbon’s neighbor on the periodic table, can form a cage-like molecule similar to the buckyball. Until now, such a boron structure had only been a theoretical speculation. The researchers dubbed their newfound nanostructure ‘borospherene’ …

“…As for possible uses for borospherene, it’s a little too early to tell, Wang says. One possibility, he points out, could be hydrogen storage. Because of the electron deficiency of boron, borospherene would likely bond well with hydrogen. So tiny boron cages could serve as safe houses for hydrogen molecules.”

In March of 2008, I had talked about how Rice University was working on developing carbon buckyballs or nanocages that could hold and release hydrogen atoms.

The U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) has outlined that for hydrogen cars and infrastructure to grow and develop, the storage of H2 on a large scale must be addressed. As a consequence many researchers are going buckyballs to the wall to make this happen.


First Assembly Line Produced Hydrogen Fueling Stations Are Here

In Vienna, Austria the Linde Group has opened the world’s first small-series production facility for building hydrogen fueling stations. Now that Hyundai has built the first assembly line produced fuel cell vehicle in Japan with others to follow, it makes sense that hydrogen fueling stations should also be built with economies of scale in mind.

According to Linde, “Highlights of the new small-series production concept include a high degree of standardisation across all components, which are installed in a compact 14-foot container for ease of transport and integration in existing fuelling stations.

“The expansion of production capacity in Vienna to 50 units a year dovetails with the introduction of the first series-produced fuel-cell cars by leading manufacturers such as Hyundai, Toyota, Honda and Daimler between 2014 and 2017. Experts predict that tens of thousands of fuel-cell cars will be travelling Europe’s roads by 2018.”

One of the main features of Linde’s hydrogen fueling station is the energy-efficient, compact ionic compressor, also called the IC 90. This device is not a traditional piston operated compressor but rather it works with liquid salts instead. The IC 90 can deliver compressed hydrogen gas up to 14,500 psi and it meets all current safety standards.

Hyundai Fuel Cell Vehicle Travels 435 Miles on One Tank

According to Hyundai they have set a record for the driving range for mass-produced fuel cell vehicles. Recently a Hyundai ix35 FCEV traveled 700 kilometers (435 miles) on one tank of hydrogen through three countries in northern Europe.

According to, “”The ix35 Fuel Cell, claimed to be the world’s first mass-production fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV), was driven from Oslo (Norway) to Malmo (Sweden) via Gothenburg (Sweden) and Copenhagen (Denmark). The journey took 10 hours at an average speed of 76km/h, taking in city and highway driving.

“The pioneering vehicle was in production-standard specification and exceeded its stated range of 594km with the trip data computer still indicating nearly 10km range at journey’s end.”

When the drivers arrived in Copenhagen they realized they had more gas than anticipated so they did a U-turn and headed back to Malmo, Sweden to finish their journey.

Now, this isn’t a record for all fuel cell vehicles. In June 2008 I had talked about how a Toyota FCHV-adv had traveled 516 miles on a single fill-up. But the Toyota wasn’t an assembly line, mass-produced vehicle so Hyundai still has bragging rights in this regard.


Science-Based Fire Codes Will Lead to More H2 Fueling Stations

Who would have thought that the use of ultra-conservative and overly restrictive fire codes was holding back the building of the hydrogen refueling infrastructure in California? Researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories discovered that by going with science-based, risk-informed fire codes aligned with the U. S. Department of Energy, that hydrogen pumps can be installed in some current gasoline stations in the Golden State.

According to Sandia, “The report examined 70 commercial gasoline stations in the state of California and sought to determine which, if any, could integrate hydrogen fuel, based on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) hydrogen technologies code published in 2011.

“The study determined that 14 of the 70 gas stations involved in the study could readily accept hydrogen fuel and that 17 more possibly could accept hydrogen with property expansions. Under previous NFPA code requirements from 2005, none of the existing gasoline stations could readily accept hydrogen …

“… The development of meaningful, science-based fire codes and determinations such as those found in the report will help accelerate the deployment of hydrogen systems, said Daniel Dedrick, hydrogen program manager at Sandia.”

Read the full 101-page report here.


Two More H2 Fuel Cell Buses Roll into Aberdeen, Scotland

Two more hydrogen fuel cell buses, created by Belgian firm Van Hool, have rolled out into Aberdeen, Scotland. This is an update to an article I had published on May 22, 2014 when the first four H2 buses were delivered.

According to the City of Aberdeen, “Two more zero-emission buses have arrived in the North-east as part of the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project.

“The vehicles, built by Belgian firm Van Hool, have been delivered to Stagecoach’s Tullos depot in the south of the city. They bring the total delivered so far to six, with the remaining four of Europe’s largest hydrogen bus fleet due to arrive in the coming months. Four of the vehicles will be operated by First Aberdeen and six by Stagecoach on city routes.

“The Aberdeen City Council-led project, which has backing from Europe, the UK Government and the Scottish Government, as well as a broad range of private sector partners, is the most high-profile of a range of projects designed to create a hydrogen economy in the city.”

When the last four hydrogen fuel cell buses arrive a little later this year, Aberdeen will then have the largest H2 bus fleet in Europe. And the City of Aberdeen has further ambitions that don’t stop there as they intend on being a “world-leading hydrogen city” for the foreseeable future.


Japan Establishes Hydrogen Fuel Cell Strategy Roadmap

Even though California is often thought of as Ground Zero for hydrogen car technology and refueling infrastructure, Japan also has been quite pro-active in this field as well. And hence the Japanese have established a Hydrogen / Fuel Cell Strategy Roadmap in order to address the technical challenges going forward in regard to growing FCVs and infrastructure in that country.

The roadmap is broken down into three phases. Phase 1 starts now and will last until about 2025. During this period of rapid growth, the goal of this phase is to increase the number of residential fuel cells and the number of hydrogen fueling stations.

Phase 2 will start in the mid 2020’s and last until about 2030. During this phase, large-scale hydrogen distribution systems will be established along with acquiring cheap hydrogen from foreign countries. In Phase 3, which begins in about 2040, hydrogen production, transportation and storage will be fully realized including clean, renewable foreign and domestic sources.

The latter part of this roadmap will depend upon breakthroughs in highly efficient water elecrolyzers that can turn solar or wind energy into hydrogen. Since Toyota’s first commercial mass-produced fuel cell vehicle is slated to rollout in less than 1 year, having a roadmap for the future, including Japan’s hydrogen highway system, will help sustain growth in this industry for years to come.


Toyota to Sell Fuel Cells to Midsize Car Companies

Toyota says it will consider selling the major components of its fuel cell systems to midsize automakers that don’t have the R&D budget to build the components from the ground up.

The reason for this is two-fold. If there are more fuel cell vehicles being sold it will be easier for governments and other agencies to spend the money to develop hydrogen fueling stations.

A second reason is that the more fuel cell systems that Toyota sells, the more money they will make and they will be able to slash costs due to the efficiencies of mass production.

According to the Japan Times, “Since the huge cost of developing the next-generation cars will be difficult for midsize companies to bear, Toyota is considering supplying such parts as fuel cells, high-pressure hydrogen tanks and motors to accelerate the spread of FCVs.”

It’s a win-win for Toyota and the smaller automakers who wish to compete in the FCV marketplace. And if more hydrogen fueling stations are being built because of this, then that’s another win, too.


Plug Power Placing FCVs at Airports

Plug Power, known for selling fuel cell materials handling units, is now placing their FCVs at airports. The fuel cell vehicles (pictured above) will be a part of a demo project for ground support equipment (GSE) vehicles used to carry luggage and cargo.

According to Plug Power, “This demo is a significant step in Plug Power’s strategy to expand into markets adjacent to material handling, where the company’s GenDrive fuel cells have overwhelmingly proved their value. Airport tuggers, belt loaders and auxiliary power units are all GSE.

“A $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy has provided the funding for this development project. Use of hydrogen fuel cells will enable GSE operators to comply with tightening emissions standards that currently require capital increases and operational interruption in fleets powered by diesel.

“This week, the Plug Power GSE fuel cell prototype was publicly demonstrated for the first time, in a Charlatte cargo tractor pulling 40,000 pounds of weight, spread evenly over four dollies.”

For the past 3 years, fuel cell vehicles have quickly made their way into warehouses all over the United States and Europe. In February 2014, Walmart placed an order for 1,738 Plug Power FCVs for their distribution warehouses in Canada and the United States. In May of this year, Central Grocers placed an order with Plug Power for 182 next-generation GenDrive fuel cell units in their Joliet, Illinois facility. Airports are the next logical step for similar types of fuel cell vehicles.


HyperSolar Artificial Photosynthesis Breaking Records

HyperSolar has set record times in producing hydrogen using a submersible artificial photosynthesis device in water. The device uses sunlight only, without any outside power source, in order to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “HyperSolar, Inc., the developer of a breakthrough technology to produce renewable hydrogen using sunlight and water, announced today that its patent pending polymer coating, when applied to a bromine electrode in a wireless solar powered particle, resulted in 170 continuous hours of hydrogen production, one of the longest duration applications of wireless hydrogen production on record.

“The test conducted by members of the company’s research team at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) confirms the possibility of commercializing a process for the direct conversion of sunlight into valuable chemicals and fuels. Solar to chemical conversion (artificial photosynthesis) has the advantage in that the energy storage challenges associated with photovoltaics are eliminated. The company’s goal is to efficiently convert solar energy into hydrogen.”

Now, I’ve talked about artificial photosynthesis many times in the past. When perfected, this technology will be a low-cost, efficient method of producing high volumes of hydrogen. For the naysayers who state that the only way to produce hydrogen is by using fossil fuels, artificial photosynthesis will have a quieting effect on that crowd.


HydrogeNXT’s Next Gen H2 Fueling Station and Smartphone Solution

Houston-based startup company HydrogeNXT is proposing a next generation hydrogen fueling station plus smartphone app that will work together efficiently to fuel up any fuel cell car.

According to the press release, “HydrogeNXT‘s fueling solution relies on a patented, app-based reservation system that allows hydrogen customers to locate nearby stations, see how much fuel is available, reserve any amount they desire, obtain directions to the station, then complete the transaction all on their smartphone or infotainment system. HydrogeNXT‘s unique reservation system will give tomorrow’s drivers the confidence that fuel they need is reserved and waiting.

“Another key to HydrogeNXT‘s solution is its radical new design, allowing the station to be extremely cost effective. HydrogeNXT‘s hardware is small, estimated to cost about 100 times less than conventional hydrogen stations, with a base mode that holds just enough fuel for about five vehicles while servicing up to 15 to 20 in a day. Its patented, modular design also makesHydrogeNXT‘s station simple and inexpensive to scale up as the hydrogen economy grows. And with 10 distinct revenue streams built into the system, selling hydrogen isn’t the only way owners will see a return on their investment.”

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case HydrogeNXT has an informative cartoon that shows how a lady with a smartphone and cool App can find a nearby H2 fueling station, reserve gas, use her smartphone to communicate with the pump and even pay for the fuel using her phone. That App deserves applause.


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