Science Questions

How do we safely store hydrogen?

Sat, 19th Jun 2010

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Question

Kyle Swanton asked:

A team of researchers from the University of Crete led by George Froudakis has designed a sponge-like material made of layers of one atom-thick graphene separated by carbon nanotubes 1.2-nanometers tall. The material contains positively-charged lithium ions that further strengthen the material's hold on the hydrogen. This sponge-like graphene material can hold, at room pressure and temperature, 6.1 percent of its total weight in hydrogen. Could you explain more please?

 

Thanks, Kyle

Answer

We discussed this with Stephen Bennington, from ISIS at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory...

Chris: - Is this similar to the work you do Stephen?

Stephen: -   Well we do work on what they call ‘intercalated graphites’ which is graphites which contain metals in between their layers, and the reason for doing that is that the metals charge up the layers of the graphite, and that means that the hydrogen sticks to it more readily.  So this theoretical work by these Greek people was very interesting because it also spaces the layers of the graphite at the perfect distance to stick hydrogen in the middle.  It’s only theoretical.

Chris: -   They give you a massive surface area.

Stephen: -   Big surface area, yes.

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Kyle Swanton asked the Naked Scientists: A team of researchers from the University of Crete led by George Froudakis has designed a sponge-like material made of layers of one atom-thick graphene separated by carbon nanotubes 1.2-nanometers tall. The material contains positively-charged lithium ions that further strengthen the material's hold on the hydrogen. This sponge-like graphene material can hold, at room pressure and temperature, 6.1 percent of its total weight in hydrogen. Please address the safe hydrogen storage challenge. Thanks, Kyle What do you think? Kyle Swanton, Mon, 15th Dec 2008

Yes, it's going to be about storing hydrogen safely, or producing it on demand. Jerry Woodall, from Purdue University, found that adding gallium to aluminium produces an alloy that reacts safely with water to produce large amounts of hydrogen, regenerates the gallium and yields aluminium oxide as the waste. He proposes that pellets of this material could be used to produce "hydrogen on demand" by adding small amounts of water; this would avoid the need to store large amounts of a potentially explosive mixture on board a car.

Chris chris, Thu, 18th Dec 2008

One real advantage of Hydrogen is that, if there is a leak, the stuff goes away (upwards) fairly quickly - unlike petrol which can be a long lasting hazard when spilled. And, to be fair, it is not really  'explosive' as it leaks out (it isn't an H O mixture); it is highly inflammable. which ain't  quite such a problem.
The Hindenburg disaster was made a hundred times worse in our 'race memory' of the newsreel sequence because of the dramatic voice of the commentator. Many of the lives were lost because of the way the accident was coped with than because Hydrogen was involved. The fire actually lasted for some time - it wasn't an explosion - and it took place high in the air, mostly.
Nasty business, nonetheless, and something to include in the risk assessment, chaps.
lyner, Thu, 18th Dec 2008

An important note to make about the Hindenbugh was that "Despite the violent fire, most of the crew and passengers survived. Of the 36 passengers and 61 crew, 13 passengers and 22 crew died. Also killed was one member of the ground crew, civilian linesman Allen Hagaman. "

from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindenburg_disaster


The Gallium Aluminium alloy isn't very practical. The by product is aluminium oxide and it clogs the things up. Also it's hard to see how the folk at Purdue can claim to have "discovered" this. Gallium (and mercury) have been banned from air transport for ages, essentilally because of this effect. You don't want it happening to your aluminium  aeroplane. Bored chemist, Thu, 18th Dec 2008

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