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Nano Sponge to Serve as Hydrogen Tank?

Research network of the University of Hamburg to be supported with two million euro of federal funds for research into new method of storing fuel

Using hydrogen as fuel could play a major role in protecting the climate as the only byproduct when converting hydrogen into electrical energy is pure water. Until now, however, there have been no cheap and energy-efficient ways of storing the gas for mobile applications. A research alliance consisting of universities in Hamburg, a research institution, and industry partners now proposes to develop a new method of storing hydrogen using nanoporous material. The storage device be capable of both storing hydrogen and emitting it in a controlled fashion, much like a sponge soaked with water.

HyScore To Receive Two Million Euro of Funding

The project “Efficient H2 storage through new hierarchically porous core-shell structures with embedded light metal (hyScore)” will be funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with more than two million euro. The project will be co-ordinated by Prof Dr Michael Fröba from the Institute of Inorganic and Applied Chemistry, University of Hamburg (UHH). Also involved are Prof. Dr. Volker Abetz (Institute of Polymer Research at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht and Institute of Physical Chemistry of the UHH), Prof. Dr. Thomas Klassen (Institute of Materials Research at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht and the Institute of Materials Engineering at the Helmut Schmidt -University), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Kaltschmitt (Institute for Environmental Technology and Energy at the Technical University Hamburg-Harburg) as well as Zoz GmbH in Wenden, a specialist in hydrogen technology and nanostructured materials, as industrial partner.

How Can Hydrogen Be Better Stored?

Hydrogen (H2) is the lightest of the chemical elements and takes under normal conditions a very large volume. As a fuel, it may be stored under high pressure in heavy bottles or liquefied in tanks at minus 253 degrees Celsius. Both methods are hardly perfect for mobile applications. In motor vehicles, for instance, use is limited and very costly. Therefore, the partners intend to examine if tanks equipped with an innovative storage material of light metal in porous materials could provide alternatives for hydrogen storage.

In the Limelight: Nanoparticulate Light Metal

Inserted into the new tanks is nanoparticulate light metal (LMH), These compounds of light metals such as lithium or magnesium are able to absorb hydrogen (refueling) and to release it again (for example, while driving). Paired with oxygen in a fuel cell, this hydrogen will be able to power an electric engine. The LMH will be embedded in a nanoporous carbon / polymer composite that has pores and channels measuring only a few nanometres in diametre (1 nanometre is 1 millionth of a millimetre). The thus created sponge-like structure is another feature this material, then to be incorporated as a foil into a tank.

Safe, Efficient and Fast

From this new class of materials, the researchers hope not only a safe and energy-efficient storage of hydrogen, but also a quick refueling, long operating times, and reduced cost. The actual LMF and polymer film with the embedded LMH composite with be synthesised and optimize by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, while the University of Hamburg will be responsible for the development of suitable nanoporous carbons for wrapping the LMH prior to embedding. The TU Hamburg-Harburg will simulate the properties of the novel storage materials on the computer and develop an optimised tank design in co-operation with the partners. The Zoz GmbH will manufacture these novel storage materials on a larger scale and be responsible for the subsequent construction of test tanks.

Huge Success for the Energy Eesearch Network Hamburg

The granting of hyScore is also a success for the Energy Research Association Hamburg (EFH) that significantly supported the research project. The network comprises five universities in Hamburg, i.e. Hamburg University, Technical University of Hamburg, Helmut Schmidt University, HafenCity University, and the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. The networks focuses on involving as many Hamburg partners as possible in collaborative projects such hyScore to enhance scientific networking in the field of energy research in Hamburg and thereby strengthen the city and its scientific landscape. The network is supported by the participating universities and the Hamburg Ministry of Science, Research and Equality, the Hamburg Mnistry of Economicy, Transport and Innovation and Hamburg Ministry of Environment and Energy.

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