Project focuses on solid-state storage system for hydrogen

EADS Innovation is working with Glasgow University to find a new solid-state storage system for hydrogen.

The Glasgow University chemists are working with EADS to alter the design and material composition of a storage tank to prove the feasibility of using solid-state hydrogen for aircraft and cars.

If the developments to the tank structure are successful, EADS is planning to fly an unmanned hydrogen-powered test aircraft in 2014 with a longer-term view of introducing commercial aircraft powered by hydrogen.

Duncan Gregory, professor of inorganic materials at the School of Chemistry at Glasgow University, is leading the research. He is using nanotechnology to alter the structure of the Hydrisafe tank, which is a new design under development by Hydrogen Horizons, a Scottish-registered start-up company.

The university and EADS Innovation Works (IW) have secured funding from the Materials Knowledge Transfer Network — part of the UK Technology Strategy Board — and the EPSRC. This will allow a student to carry out a four-year PhD project, spending time at the university and the company’s offices in Ottobrunn, Germany.

According to EADS, the research will involve testing the Hydrisafe tank with alternative hydrogen storage materials. The tank currently uses the lanthanum nickel (LaNi5) storage alloy. The research will look into replacing LaNi5 with other hydride materials such as magnesium hydride (MgH2), which has been modified at the nanoscale to allow it to receive and release the hydrogen at an even faster rate.

Modifying the construction of the tank will extend its longevity, making it suitable to have a solid-state hydrogen storage system that can feed a fuel cell at the required energy densities required on an aircraft.

EADS IW and Gregory’s team are seeking funding from the European Union to build a European-wide team of academic and industrial partners to examine the wider issues relating to using hydrogen on an industrial scale to power aircraft and car engines.

There is a recognition that while there is a strong potential for the adoption of fuel cells into the portable fuel-cells market, key barriers to delivering this are the safe, efficient and cost-effective storage of hydrogen. The research project, if approved, would explore how best to deliver a practical solid-state hydrogen solution for portable and micro fuel-cell systems.