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Laser Hydride CD Storage for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles

Now, many people probably haven’t heard about laser hydride compact disc (CD) storage before. I know that I hadn’t before I stumbled across a company called Plasma Kinetics.

Sure, there are many ways to store hydrogen including metal hydride containers which can be quite heavy, compressed hydrogen tanks which are extremely insulated and built to withstand leakage and impact. Some of these tanks are built out of metal alloys and others out of more expensive carbon fiber.

But, Plasma Kinetics has come up with a novel way to store hydrogen for cars that can reduce the weight of the storage tanks by as much as 400 lbs as compared to a conventional automobile and 500 lbs as compared to a Tesla Roadster.

The novel approach is to use Laser hydride CD storage. What this means is that a hydrogen car owner will refuel their vehicle at a regular hydrogen fueling station. The compressed hydrogen fuel will flow into the car and microwaves will ionize the H2 onto CD, similar to what we would put into a CD player in which to listen to music.

And much like the process of listening to music, the device would use a laser to release the hydrogen on demand from the magnesium CD as the car needs it for fuel. The CD’s would be stacked in a series and could provide a range of over 300 miles for the average hydrogen fuel cell car.

Plasma Kinetics is currently displaying their laser hydride H2 storage device at the U. S. Department of Energy’s Arpa-e Summit, which was developed to showcase leading edge and breakthrough clean energy technology. Plasma Kinetics is currently looking for investors to bring their product to the next level of development.

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen car blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen cars, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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11 comments

  1. admin

    Here’s an email response that I receive from Stacey S. at Plasma Kinetics and am publishing it with her permission:

    Hey Kevin,

    My husband Paul and I are extremely flattered by your interest in our technology. Currently, Paul is in Maryland attending a DOE/ARPA-e conference, so I read him your email and site related article. Although we did not receive funding from the DOE we were invited to man a booth for presentation. Plasma Kinetics is a small company with large ideas, we would like to see our country energy independent and our world cleaner. We know/knew that getting support/attention would be our greatest struggle, but the project is strong and yet not very complicated. We use as many stock items as possible in development, it is tested technology and it keeps cost down, we applied enhancements and innovation where necessary. We were very well received at the conference, the attention exceeded our expectations. We hope this will propel us to the next phase in our development. Kind attention and consideration such as yours is welcome, we are honored that there are people like you who find merit in our work.

  2. I am very interested in this technology. As a former research engineer for the Air Force Research Lab here in Dayton, OH, I understand the challenges of bringing new technology to a country that lags many other nations in various technologies due to political, social and leadership issues.

    I will be keeping an eye on this project! Is it possible to know more about the storage life of the ionized H2? This sounds almost like how a capacitor stores electrical charge, and in that case, the storage is persistent under the right conditions.

    I am intrigued!

    Ed in Dayton OH

  3. I am curious how much energy it takes to power the microwave generator that bonds the hydrogen to the metal hydride discs. I also wonder how much energy it takes to power the laser that releases the hydrogen from the metal hydride discs. It must be a pretty big laser to release hydrogen fast enough to fuel any reasonable sized passenger vehicle. How many discs does it take just to power the laser? Is the weight of the laser and the extra power capacity to run it included in the estimate that says it will save 400 – 500 pounds over other technologies? What about compared to a fuel cell, or methanol-powered vehicle? If you take the energy required to distill the hydrogen, plus the energy required to distribute the hydrogen, plus the energy required to bond the hydrogen to metal hydride discs, plus the energy to create the discs, plus the energy to handle the discs, plus the energy to power the lasers to release the hydrogen, will it really be efficient enough to compare with other technologies? It would be nice to see any of these details addressed.

  4. Kevin Alexeff’s concerns are very good. They reflect the framework within which a new hydrogen technology must work to be viable. Metal hydrides were not previously adopted due to inherently poor absorption and desorption kinetics. Without employing electromagnetic radiation (lasers and microwaves) it takes too much energy to get hydrogen in and out of the metal. Microwaves allow 0 psi hydrogen plasmas with less energy than it takes to pump hydrogen to a tank pressure of 5000 psi. The 600 watt magnetrons are “on” for less than 0.2 seconds per disk, and 1,500 disks are loaded per bank. The hydrogen feed is 12psi which is less than atmospheric pressure and can be generated on site (even at home) from relatively inexpensive hydrogen generators that use 110 volt and distilled water. On the desorption side, laser systems continue to improve in efficiency. 50 to 60 percent electrical to optical laser efficiency is now achievable with even the most powerful lasers. Identification of the wavelengths at which hydrogen is released allows direct improvement of the laser system for this application. Miniaturizing the laser driver and the incorporation of the latest high power laser diodes allows reduction in weight and complexity while increasing reliability and durability. The system is designed as a steady state system. Hydrogen is continuously released to a fuel cell providing a constant rate of electricity. In order to allow stop and go driving, a small lithium-ion battery is needed. The battery is always charging from the fuel cell, but can be drawn upon as needed for rapid acceleration. There are always sacrifices in efficiency made for the sake of transportability. Gasoline and other transportation fuels have very poor life cycle efficiencies. Sacrifices are made in distillation processes, transportation of fuel, and consumption of non-renewable sources of electricity. Studies indicate that Laser Hydride Technology currently represents one of the most efficient life cycles available to passenger and light duty vehicles, while having the potential to provide the greatest reduction green house gases.
    Weight is always a concern when discussing transportation. The Laser Hydride system, including disks and lasers weighs 330 lbs and will provide enough energy to allow more than 220 miles of travel. This is near the weight of the steel hydrogen tank in the most recognized hydrogen vehicle from Japan, but is still clearly more than a 110 pound gasoline tank. However, recent improvements in fuel-cells, electric motors and batteries permit a 600 lb internal combustion engine and gas tank to be replaced with a 600 lb fuel-cell laser hydride system. If you need less range, then the Laser Hydride System size can be reduced along with weight. The most recognized battery only vehicles from Palo Alto have a 990 lb battery pack and a range of 180 miles on a charge. A Laser Hydride equipped vehicle with a 180 mile range weighs 400 lbs less. We welcome concerns such as Kevin Alexeff has presented, they are the very challenges we have work diligently to overcome. Our success can be viewed in an executive summary found at; http://plasmakinetics.com/Content/Downloads/PlasmaKineticsLaserHydrideMVExecutiveSummary.pdf
    We hope that this provides clarification. We are appreciative of the interest expressed by everyone.

  5. This is phenomenal and very interesting. I am working on a hydrogen System and untill now had only considered the carbon storage tanks. My personal feelings about most alternate energy systems is that the most viable are those that individuals can impliment on their homesite, vehicle or business.

  6. Since This system is being discussed in relation too transportation.
    What about the safety in an accident?

    Of course the magnesium would make for pretty colors during a fire

  7. Magnesium is a flammable metal when allowed adequate surface area and temperature. Plasma Kinetics uses an alloy with a flame retardant metal. The result is a metal hydride disk which quickly smolders rather than burns. We use the expression, “No more flammable than a paper plate.” Our goal is to be safer than a pressurized hydrogen tank, and at least as safe as conventional fuels.

  8. While you’re technology seems very interesting, why have you chosen to use MgH2 and Mg2NiH4 as your storage material? You’re documentation mentions the possibility of storing 5 wt% of hydrogen, but the example you give is only 3.5 wt%. Meanwhile, the 2010 target for hydrogen storage from the DOE is 6 wt% and the 2015 target is 9 wt%. Do you see any way of meeting these targets? If not, you might want to look into a more effective material that may be compatible with your microwave/laser IP…

  9. When Plasma Kinetics was developing our formulas we discovered that we could exceed the DOE targets of 6 wt% and approach the target of 9 wt% hydrogen. However, with the high yields we had to employ more complex materials and more state changes occured during adsorption and desorption. The trade-off in cost, efficiency and complexity drew us to the less expensive, and more stable formula. We have been working to improve the simple formula to exceed 5 wt% through the entire disk, and believe that this will be acceptable and safe in most applications, including automotive. We are preparing to release our findings in updated literature at the end of 2010. Applications that are less concerned with weight and cost, but require higher yields, may be willing to consider our other formulas. We also expect that we will be investigating modified form factors and the latest generation of nano-technologies in strategic partnerships in 2011.

  10. We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your site offered us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done an impressive task and our whole neighborhood will be thankful to you.

  11. Whoa, this laser hydrogen technology looks awesome. Who knew that a CD or DVD could hold so much H2 and one day fuel our cars!

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