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Materials and manufacturing boost for hydrogen storage

Engineers at the University of California, San Diego, have created new ceramic materials that could be used to store hydrogen safely and efficiently. 

It is claimed the researchers have, for the first time, created compounds made from mixtures of calcium hexaboride, strontium and barium hexaboride. They also have demonstrated that the compounds could be manufactured using combustion synthesis, a simple, low-cost manufacturing method.

The work is at the proof of concept stage and is part of a $1.2m project funded by the US National Science Foundation, a collaboration between UC San Diego (UCSD), Alfred University in New York State and the University of Nevada, Reno.

The researchers presented their work in March 2014 at the third International Symposium on Nanoscience and Nanomaterials in Mexico.

The researchers have created for the first time compounds made from mixtures of calcium hexaboride, strontium and barium hexaboride. From left: Scanning electron microscope image of hexaboride structure at the five-micron scale; image at the 500nm scale

Source: Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego

The researchers have created for the first time compounds made from mixtures of calcium hexaboride, strontium and barium hexaboride. From left: Scanning electron microscope image of hexaboride structure at the five-micron scale; image at the 500nm scale

Storing hydrogen has become increasingly important, as hydrogen fuel cells become more popular power sources in industry and elsewhere. Hydrogen, however, is difficult to store as it tends to diffuse through the walls of pressurised tanks. It also needs to be compressed in order to occupy manageable amounts of space when stored.

According to UCSD, the resulting ceramics are essentially crystalline structures in a cage of boron. To store hydrogen, the researchers would swap the calcium, strontium and boron with hydrogen atoms within the cage.

During the combustion synthesis process, engineers mixed boron with metal nitrates and organic fuels, such as urea, in a box furnace at temperatures below 400 degrees Celsius. The nitrates and organic fuels ignite, generating heat that then drives the reaction without the need for an external source of power. 

The researchers have created for the first time compounds made from mixtures of calcium hexaboride, strontium and barium hexaboride. The resulting ceramics are essentially crystalline structures in a cage of boron. To store hydrogen, the researchers would

Source: Olivia Graeve/Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego

The researchers have created for the first time compounds made from mixtures of calcium hexaboride, strontium and barium hexaboride. The resulting ceramics are essentially crystalline structures in a cage of boron. To store hydrogen, the researchers would swap the calcium, strontium and boron with hydrogen atoms within the cage


Readers' comments (2)

  • On the face of it, this sounds interesting given the demand for storing energy as a balancer for supply/demand cycles.
    However, the article is relatively meaningless as it gives no clue as to how much Hydrogen can be stored in a given volume of the 'calcium hexaboride, strontium and barium hexaboride' compounds.
    A useful guide may be the equivalent volume of this method against Cryogenically stored Hydrogen as this liquid offers the greatest 'energy density'.

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  • Olivia Graeve, a professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego replies: The storage capacity of our materials is 13 wt% of hydrogen with respect
    to the hexaboride.

  • 13 wt % is very useful. It would be interesting to know how easy it is to load, maintain and release the H2.

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