As you may already know or heard about at least once in your lifetime, hydrogen is supposed to be the cleanest fuel on the face of the Earth, because burning it only outputs water. Storing hydrogen cheaply and efficiently is the most important issue scientists struggle with.
Scientists from Virginia Commonwealth University, Peking University in Beijing and the Chinese Academy of Science in Shanghai made a discovery that could help other researchers build hydrogen containers that could make the gas compete with petrol-based fuels in terms of energy density and availability.
What the scientists did was using an electric field to polarize both the gas and the storing substrate, so hydrogen could bond easier to it.
“We have made such an attempt, and we have proposed a new principle for the design of hydrogen storage materials which involves materials with low-coordinated, non-metal anions that are highly polarizable in an applied electric field,” he said.
“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,” said Puru Jena, Ph.D., distinguished professor in the VCU Department of Physics.
“More importantly, it avoids many problems associated with doping metal ions such as clustering of metal atoms, poisoning of metal ions by other gases, and a complicated synthesis process. In addition, once the electric field is removed, hydrogen desorbs, making the process reversible with fast kinetics under ambient conditions,” he said.
There are many other hydrogen storage approaches, different to each other, but only a few of them will pass the test of time, perseverance, money and success. The best (or the cheapest) will win, eventually, but only time will tell that.