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This Hydrogen Fuel Breakthrouh Sounds Sweet
The biggest advantage of Hydrogen-powered Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) is that once quickly refueled with hydrogen gas, they can be charged and ready to go in around five minutes. While there’s a myriad of reasons for FCEVs getting just a fraction of the sales enjoyed by conventional EVs, the leading reason is the lack of hydrogen gas fuel station infrastructure.
The challenge FCEVs face to achieve commercial success is the cost of storing hydrogen gas, as it either needs to be kept in pressurized tanks at up to 700 bar or be converted to liquid form by cooling it down to -423 degrees Fahrenheit. This is not only expensive, but it also requires a lot of energy, negating the appeal of FCEVs and their environmental benefits.
German research center Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) has discovered an approach to storing hydrogen in nanoparticles made from a precious metal called palladium. Although it has been long known that palladium can absorb hydrogen like a sponge, the DESY approach differs by making the hydrogen easier to extract.
The process involves palladium particles only one nanometer across in a structure that resembles nut-coated marzipan chocolate — at the center of the structure is an iridium 'nut' around which is enveloped a layer of palladium, which then gets coated by a layer of hydrogen. A small amount of heat is required to extract the hydrogen.
DESY plans on scaling the technology to find out the storage densities that it can achieve, and while it is currently using graphene as a carrier for the 'nano-chocolates,' it intends to investigate other carbon structures. However, DESY is optimistic to be able to hold substantial amounts of palladium and hydrogen, without the downsides of current methods of hydrogen containment.