It’s Groundhog’s Day, again. And as a sign of the times, the famous Punxsutawney Phil stepped out of his burrow, saw his shadow and apparently text messaged all of this friends that there will be six more weeks of winter.
Now, just as Phil text messaging all of his friends doesn’t seem to go together, neither does electricity and hydrogen. But, this is what researchers in Virginia and China are proposing.
Scientists at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the Chinese Academy of Science in Shanghai and Peking University in Beijing are proposing the use of an outside electrical field to contain hydrogen molecules efficiently and reversibly at ambient temperatures.
According to Puru Jena, Ph.D at VCU, “Using an external electric field as another variable in our search for such a material will bring a hydrogen economy closer to reality. This is a paradigm shift in the approach to store hydrogen. Thus far, the efforts have been on how to modify the composition of the storage material. Here we show that an applied electric field can do the same thing as doped metal ions.”
Right now there has been much research on metal hydride storage. Hydrogen clings to the metal at low pressures and ambient temperatures because of a weak electrical charge that bonds the molecules. The new proposal says that a weak electrical charge can be applied from the outside to “contain” the hydrogen inside some sort of fueling tank and when the electricity is shut off the hydrogen is released for the vehicle to use.
Now, this may seem counterintuitive to many, who think that hydrogen and electricity go together about as well as a flame and gasoline. But, the scientists aren’t talking about a spark to ignite the H2 fuel but rather charge polarization at the molecular level.
Like I’ve stated before it is this kind of outside-the-box thinking we will need in order to solve the issues, getting in the way of rolling out a full-fledged hydrogen transportation system in the near future.