have made a world-first discovery which is a step
towards using environmentally-friendly hydrogen to
power our cars.
A team from the Universities of Newcastle upon Tyne
and Liverpool in the UK, who report their findings
in the prestigious academic journal, Science, have
found a safe way of storing and releasing hydrogen
to produce energy. They do this using nanoporous materials,
which have tiny pores that are one hundred-thousandth
(100,00th) the thickness of a sheet of paper.
has been investigated for a long time as a replacement
for petrol, amid worries over the long-term availability
of fossil fuels. It is also an environmentally-friendly
alternative, as it produces only water rather than
the 'greenhouse gas', carbon dioxide. However, scientists
and others have been baffled for a long time about
how to store the substance – which is a gas and so
contains less energy in a given volume than the liquid
petrol - safely and efficiently.
his January 2003 State of the Union Address, President
Bush announced the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative (1) –
"so that America can lead the world in developing
clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles." Hydrogen
storage technology - the ability to carry enough hydrogen
on-board a vehicle to enable 300-mile vehicle range
- is critical to the success of the President's initiative.
The UK Government is also very keen to exploit the
the present time, no existing hydrogen storage technology
meets the challenging performance required to make
hydrogen-powered automobiles competitive with traditional
vehicles. New and innovative ideas are needed.
Liverpool and Newcastle researchers have found a workable
method of injecting the gas at high pressure into
the tiny pores - of ten to the minus nine metres in
size - in specially-designed materials to give a dense
form of hydrogen. They then reduce the pressure within
the material in order to store the captured hydrogen
safely. Heat can be applied to release the hydrogen
as energy, on which a car could potentially run.
Mark Thomas, of Newcastle University's Northern Carbon
Research Laboratories in the School of Natural Sciences,
a member of the research team, said:
is a proof of principle that we can trap hydrogen
gas in a porous material and release it when required.
However, if developed further, this method would have
the potential to be applied to powering cars or any
generator supplying power. Although hydrogen-powered
cars are likely to be decades away, our discovery
brings this concept a step towards becoming reality.
that we have a mechanism that works, we can go on
to design and build better porous framework materials
for storing hydrogen, which may also be useful in
industries that use gas separation techniques."
Matt Rosseinsky, of the University of Liverpool's
Department of Chemistry, said "Our new porous
materials can capture hydrogen gas within their channels,
like a molecular cat-flap.
allowing the hydrogen molecule – the 'cat - in, the
structure closes shut behind it. The important point
is that the hydrogen is loaded into the materials
at high pressure but stored in them at a much lower
pressure - a unique behaviour. This basic scientific
discovery may have significant ramifications for hydrogen
storage and other technologies that rely on the controlled
entrapment and release of small molecules."
Mark Thomas or Dr Ashleigh Fletcher, Newcastle University:
Tel. 44-191-222-6839 or 44-774-981-9660 Email: email@example.com
Matt Rosseinsky, University of Liverpool:
Tel. 44-151-794-3499 or 44-151-794-7661