Cella Energy Uses Coaxial Electrospinning to Create Low Cost H2

cella energyI’ve talked about the merits of using ammonia borane several times in the past as a hydrogen-rich chemical compound that may one day be used to refuel H2 cars.

Now, a company called Cella Energy is using ammonia borane (NH3BH3) plus a process called coaxial electrospinning or electrospraying to either supply pure hydrogen to fuel cell vehicles or ICE cars that can run on H2 or to reduce emissions on fossil fuel based vehicles.

According to Cella, “The coaxial electrospinning process that Cella uses is simple and industrially scalable, it can be used to create micron scale micro-fibres or micro-beads nano-porous polymers filled with the chemical hydride. Cella believes that this technology can produce an inexpensive, compound material that be handled safely in air, operates at low pressures and temperatures and has sufficiently high hydrogen concentration and rapid desorption kinetics to be useful for transport applications.”

They go on to say, “Our current composite material uses ammonia borane NH3BH3 as the hydride and polystyrene as the polymer nano-scaffold. Ammonia borane in its normal state releases 12wt% of hydrogen at temperatures between 110°C and 150°C, but with very slow kinetics. In our materials the accessible hydrogen content is reduced to 6wt% but the temperature of operation is reduced so that it starts releasing hydrogen below 80°C and the kinetics are an order of magnitude faster.”

The hydrogen can also be used as a supplement to reduce current emissions in gasoline, diesel, JP-8, jet-fuel or kerosene. This can be done now using the current petroleum based refueling infrastructure with very little modifications.

The nano-scale beads that Cella refers to will move through the vehicle like a liquid, so it can be refueled as such as well. Once the hydrogen in the liquid is spent it can be pumped out of the vehicle and rehydrided somewhere else, recycled and used for fuel once again.

The elegance of this method is that thousands of high pressure hydrogen fueling stations will not need to be built to accommodate hydrogen cars. Slight modifications of current fueling stations will be needed only, so this solution could accelerate the introduction and acceptance of hydrogen cars on a wide scale very quickly. Cella, however is working on further improving its fuel so that widespread commercialization is possible.

3 Responses to “Cella Energy Uses Coaxial Electrospinning to Create Low Cost H2”

  1. It needs to be improved before commercialization? I wonder what the problem is?

  2. From what I understand getting an invention out of the lab and scaled up into commercialization can be quite a process, working prototypes, demonstration products, funding, etc. all play a roll in the process.

  3. Hydrides seem to be key to hydrogen based transportation so that an expensive infrastructure doesn’t have to be built. Thing is, I see competing approaches that range from ammonia borane, to hydrnol, to laser metal hydrides. Doing all of the above would be seemingly expensive. A winner needs to be picked and commercialized, or else it could be decades before hydrogen based transportation really catches on. Sadly, the Volt and the Leaf are being pushed as the success stories of 2011. Never mind that neither one of these vehicles is available to the general public. Worse, these vehicles are not an effective replacement for conventional ones. The problem with the Volt is the cost of the battery. The problem with the Leaf is the cost of the battery.
    The driving range on these batteries is pathetic.

    What I’d like to see is a variable federal fuel tax that keeps the cost of gasoline
    and diesel around $4/gallon. This will hurt in the short run, but over time the
    proceeds can be funnelled into commercialization efforts for hydrogen based
    transit. The federal government should be lowering the barriers to commercialization for hydrogen based transit, not raising them. Obama has been trying to redirect all federal funding to biofuel and battery research, boo.
    Why go the biofuel route when using hydrogen via a fuel cell is a zero pollution option?

    Another thing I’d like to see, a refuelling method that is compatible with a
    low pressure source of hydrogen catching on. I should be able to refuel
    my hydrogen based vehicle with a water hose and an electrolysis unit in
    my own garage. Even if home based hydrogen filling takes all night, that is okay for day to day driving.

    What is needed is one vehicle refueling method that is inexpensive both on the
    infrastructure and vehicle side. The method needs to be safe and easily
    implemented in a variety of locations. Fuel stops could involve swapping
    solid metal hydride discs or pouring a gallon of a slurry into a special dual bladder tank. Where most places that hydrogen could be collected in the U.S.
    are on the east coast, storing this hydrogen in an easily transportable hydride
    makes sense.

    Speaking of options, mixing hydrogen with natural gas seems a very
    promising delivery technique where it is trivial to separate the two at
    the destination. The natural gas could be used as a carrier or as a
    secondary fuel.

    I think the most sensible way to refuel a hydrogen based vehicle is to standardize laser metal hydrides where the discs can be removed from the
    vehicle for swapping/recharging. No high pressure hydrogen tanks or pumps.
    No loss of hydrogen from a high pressure tank because the vehicle is sitting.
    “Playing” a laser metal hydride disc on a rough road could be a problem, but
    I’m sure there are ways to get around that from having a small hydrogen
    gas tank to having a larger battery. A liquid hydride is an intriguing idea, but
    I haven’t seen any options that are promising enough yet. The problem is
    carrying both the charged and spent liquid hydride.

    A major problem that I see aside from Obama trying to replace the transition to a hydrogen based transportation system with super high fuel economy using expensive batteries is that there are too many ways to fuel a hydrogen based transportation system. These many ways have not sorted out and there isn’t enough information about any of them. We know that high pressure hydrogen gas tanks leak slowly and require a somewhat expensive infrastructure to support them. With laser metal hydrides, questions remain about system cost and rough roads. For hydrogen rich liquids that can be reformed on board a vehicle, hydrogen density and keeping the spent fuel is a problem. If the left over is water, water freezes. Hydrogen’s availability is becoming less of an issue with more and more ways of acquiring the precious gas coming on line.
    Still, one question I have is could we produce all the hydrogen we need by
    harnessing the sun’s energy somehow? Is coal to hydrogen realistic or even necessary? How much hydrogen does the earth release that can be realistically collected?

    With 2015 only about five years away, seems to me that how we will acquire hydrogen and how we will carry it should be clearer.

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