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Scientists Work On Briefcase Size Hydrogen Storage for Vehicles

University of Massachusetts, Amherst scientists have discovered a new way of storing hydrogen that may reduce fuel tank size to that of a briefcase. Using computer modeling and carbon nanotube technology that researchers have shown that it is possible to design a hydrogen storage tank that stores nearly 100-percent H2 atomically plus nearly 8-percent by weight. This exceeds the U. S. DOE (Department of Energy) target for the year 2010.

What makes this storage technology special is the “less is more” philosophy. The carbon nanotubes that are arranged in bundles bond with hydrogen gas. Heat is applied to release the hydrogen bonded with the nanotubes. One of the shortcomings of past experiments has been that the nanotubes have been too thick and swell, when heat is applied, trapping much of the hydrogen rather than releasing it.

What the U of M, Amherst scientists have discovered it that by making the carbon nanotubes thinner, they can bond with more hydrogen and even after swelling will release nearly 100-percent of the H2. This is still at the computer modeling stage so the system has yet to be proven.

But, if and when this method is proven to be practical, this will help solve one of the largest issues facing hydrogen cars, which is the use of small H2 storage tanks that hold enough hydrogen so a car can travel 300 miles before refueling. Is this so far fetched? Not at all.

Over the past several years, Honda has reduced the size of its fuel cell stack (currently used in the FCX Clarity) in half. Also, the next generation of fuel cell system designed by General Motors is 220 lbs. lighter than the previous version.

As fuel cell systems and hydrogen storage tanks become more robust and compact, major hurdles of going towards an H2 transportation system are being left in the dust.

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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3 comments

  1. Sir: Please ‘splain me why storing hydrogen in a briefcase sized tank would be superior to storing electrons in the tank. Am I wrong, or does the electric motor powering the vehicle really care whether the electricity came from a fuel cell or a battery / ultracapacitor?

    Might customers prefer to avoid paying for a fuel cell (or ICE) if it’s not needed to strip electrons from hydrogen? What advantage would the fuel cell provide?

    Regarding tank capacity, how much more power could those same nanotubes (or graphene sheets) store if electrons rather than dihydrogen was the commodity being stored? Twice as much? Three or four times as much? I honestly don’t know and would be most grateful if you could cure my ignorance thereof.

  2. admin

    You’re right that the electric motor doesn’t care. If you know of a lithium ion battery or ultracapacitor the size of a briefcase that can power a car for 300 miles and recharge in 10 minutes economically, I would be most interested in checking it out. I’m sure the day will come when there will be such a battery, but the question (just like hydrogen cars) is when.

  3. Like everything that gets posted here. In another 10 or 20 years it may work but no one can afford it.
    We are still at 1939 with our electric auto.
    I don’t think it will make my 28 foot motor home go very far or take me and my little fishing boat to the lake and back.
    As for charging the battery in 10 min. you better have all connections clean and tight or the car will melt or explode like a bomb.
    Welding is the art of controling a loose electric connection at high currents.

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