For the hydrogen vehicle to become something as regular as the gasoline vehicle, you need infrastructure and on-vehicle storage, sufficient enough to propel your car as much as a gasoline tank does. Or, at least, close to that.
Up to now, there have not been any inventions that have been put into action and rendered wonderful results for everybody, both in terms of costs and of reliability.
Kevin, from Hydrogencarsnow.com recently talked to Louis Ventre, Executive VP and General Counsel for HCE, LLC, who filed a patent application for a new hydrogen storage system, based on nano-sized hydrogen bubbles contained in a water environment.
Nano-scale hydrogen bubbles can be dispersed in water, and thus stored successfully. Unlike other methods of storing the hydrogen, this one doesn’t need the water to be contained in high pressure reservoirs, because it also works at ambient temperatures and pressures. The filling of the water container, though, is made at very high pressure (43,500 pounds per square inch), but after that, only a special treatment would release the hydrogen from the water.
The hydrogen can be released by several means, and their usability depends on the application. The first consists of directly injecting hydrogen-treated water directly into the engine’s cylinder, and carrying the water through the combustion and the expansion process, which would increase the total power of the engine. The second method relies on the weakening of the water’s surface tension through raising the temperature of the dispersion. One useful way they can do that in a car is by using the engine’s own waste heat. The third way is to introduce an additive that would lower the surface tension. The hydrogen’s release rate can be set as high as there is no foam created. While the first method would be appropriate to fuel regular (anti-rust treated, of course) gasoline engines, the latter two would be applicable to fuel cells, where you only need pure hydrogen.
HCE says that the dispersion of hydrogen in water can solve the problem of fuel tanks in the cheapest way possible, by letting the user store the water in any regular gasoline tank, with no special high pressure installations. They also note that a fuel tank full of water-dispersed hydrogen would last as much as a gasoline one:
“HCE reports that hydrogen stored in the form created by its proprietary device and process is expected to have a volumetric energy density (higher heating value) from about 24 to 29 megajoules per liter. The stated range is attributable to uncertainties in compressibility and small-scale cohesion factors. This compares favorably with the energy density for gasoline at about 26 to 31 megajoules per liter. The process is expected to have application to other high value gases made more usable in such a storage medium, such as natural gas a.k.a. methane and propane.”
This “outside-the-box” technology, as Kevin names it, wouldn’t be dangerous at all in the case of an impact. The water would just pour out of the tank and, if heated, the hydrogen contained wouldn’t explode, but rather burn in a similar fashion that gasoline does. This is only the worst case scenario: gasoline is much riskier than hydrogen, because its vapors don’t rise up into the air like hydrogen does, and hydrogen doesn’t spill on the ground, leaving burnable leaks.