Javad Rafiee, a doctoral student in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed a new method of ultra-efficient hydrogen storage based on graphene.
Methods studied up to now have not been able to satisfy the U.S. Department of Energy standard imposed for 2015, building a material with hydrogen storage capacity of 9 percent by weight at room temperature. Rafiee said his graphene is also one of the first known materials to surpass the Department of Energy’s 2010 target of 6 percent.
Rafiee’s new material is able to store hydrogen with 14 percent efficiency, which is much better than any other material made so far.
As you may already know, graphene is actually a one-atom-thick carbon sheet, has a low density and has one of the highest surface area-per-unit masses in nature, far superior to even carbon nanotubes and fullerenes.
Being only one atom thick, graphene’s carbon atoms are fully exposed to the environment, and thus to hydrogen, which bonds to the carbon atom very efficiently.
After oxidizing graphite powder and mechanically grinding the resulting graphite oxide, Rafiee synthesized the graphene by thermal shock followed by annealing and exposure to argon plasma. These treatments play an important role in increasing the binding energy of hydrogen to the graphene surface at room temperature, as hydrogen tends to cluster and layer around carbon atoms.
Javad Rafiee even got an award for his innovation, being among the four 2010 Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prize winners announced on March, 4th. Invention is the key ingredient of progress, and the Lemelson-MIT Rensselaer Student Prize rallies our students to innovate world-changing solutions for the grand challenges facing all people of all nations,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “Javad Rafiee has the vision of a robust national hydrogen economy and a world less dependent on oil and gasoline. I applaud his efforts toward this noble goal, and congratulate him on this prestigious award. I thank all of the Lemelson-MIT Rensselaer Collegiate Student Prize winners and finalists for their effort, zeal, and for being ambassadors of progress.”
With such a high storing efficiency, Javad’s graphene might just propel him to the dream of making his own company, focusing on green energy and green manufacturing. More important than that, his invention might actually change our fuel tanks, engines and air quality in the long run, by replacing oil with hydrogen and fumes with pure water.