Scientists and researchers have spent years trying to simulate Mother Nature in creating hydrogen or storing hydrogen more efficiently. Artificial photosynthesis using viruses or nano leaf structures are recent areas of study for creating hydrogen fuel.
But, just as important as creating hydrogen is also storing the element for later use by fuel cell cars and H2ICE vehicles. Recently researchers have been studying both the structure of crab shells and chicken feathers in order to store hydrogen more efficiently.
Researchers at Fudan University in China, “… has demonstrated that crab shell has a well aligned porous structure at the microscopic level. Exploiting this unique structure, they have generated porous carbon nanofibre arrays by combining the hard crab shell template with an established soft templating method.”
Other porous shellfish are also being considered for templates. On the non-seafood end of the food chain, chicken feathers are also being used to store hydrogen. Scientists at the University of Delaware in Newark have discovered that the naturally occurring protein called keratin forms a hollow tube structure.
According to the article, “To strengthen the keratin components, they are heated in order to induce the forming of crosslinks that also makes the material more porous, thereby giving it a larger surface area. This carbonized chicken feather fiber material will supposedly add a mere $200 on top of the price of a car for hydrogen storage, whereas the same 20-gallon tank would cost $5.5 million when carbon nanotubes are used and $30,000 for metal hydrides. Current prototype of the storage can keep enough fuel in a 75-gallon tank for the car to go 300 miles.”
So, whether you prefer crabs, chickens, leaves or a nasty little virus, nanotechnology keeps finding solutions to complex hydrogen production and storage methods. One day these miniature breakthroughs will be of large magnitude in bringing forth a sustainable hydrogen economy.