Chemists at the University of Oregon have come up with a combination of elements that may serve to be the fuel of the future. Using boron and nitrogen as chemical carriers for hydrogen the liquid that the researchers have developed is safe and stable at room temperature and it is also stable in regard to moisture and air.
According to the University of Oregon, “Reporting in a paper placed online ahead of publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a team of four UO scientists describes the development of a cyclic amine borane-based platform called BN-methylcyclopentane. In addition to its temperature and stability properties, it also features hydrogen desorption, without any phase change, that is clean, fast and controllable. It uses readily available iron chloride as a catalyst for desorption, and allows for recycling of spent fuel into a charged state … The U.S. Department of Energy, which funded the research, is shooting to develop a viable liquid or solid carrier for hydrogen fuel by 2017. The new UO approach differs from many other technologies being studied in that it is liquid-based rather than solid, which, Liu says, would ease the possible transition from a gasoline to a hydrogen infrastructure.”
The part of the system that needs further development is a more robust regenerative mechanism for this liquid fuel. Professor of Chemistry Shih-Yuan Liu says that current and past chemical storage methods for hydrogen usually involve a solid state such as storing H2 in ammonia borane or metal hydrides.
Two of the advantages of using a liquid hydrogen carrier are portability and familiarity. Tanker trucks and pipelines already carry a vast amount of liquids, so distribution of a liquid hydrogen carrier would not be as large of a departure from the current norm as would be compressed hydrogen gas. In addition, consumers are already familiar with pumping liquid fuels and this process, too would be very familiar to most who try it.