A Dutch researcher has developed a magnesium, titanium and nickel alloy that has huge potential as a hydrogen storage tank for cars of the future. On a relative basis, the weight of a storage tank made from this alloy would be 60% lighter than a lithium ion battery that could take a car the same distance.
One of the major stumbling blocks of hydrogen cars (fuel cell or otherwise) involves the storage of hydrogen on board. Hydrogen is very combustible and poses an extreme fire/explosion danger, especially when stored as a highly compressed gas.
Some researchers suggest that the best method to use hydrogen in a car is avoid the storage of it altogether and make it on-demand through another chemical reaction. One of the most promising of these methods comes from Jerry Woodall, a Purdue University professor who has been reacting an aluminum-gallium alloy with water to release hydrogen instantaneously.
But Dutch researcher Robin Gremaud has found that storing the hydrogen in his metal alloy “nano-sponge” can drastically reduce the danger of explosion. The metal alloy can absorb the hydrogen and render it relatively inert until needed. According to Gremaud’s press release, however, the “drawback of this approach is that it makes the hydrogen ‘tanks’ somewhat cumbersome.”
Hydrogen cars are one of those future technologies that perpetually seem to be “on the horizon.” Although the research is in a constant chug — bringing it a bit closer with every year — the reality of a “hydrogen economy” seems as far away today as it did when I was in 8th grade and read an article in Popular Mechanics that claimed it was a decade away — that was 20 years ago.
So, although research like this is always incredibly interesting, there’s a part of my brain that writes it off as a pipe-dream. The idea of a hydrogen economy makes for a great story, but the reality of getting there may be too much for us to handle, at least in the short term. What do you think?
Image Credit: Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research