The Quest for 'Unstable' Hydrogen Storage

The prospect of hydrogen-fuelled cars may be one step closer thanks to a new form of compound discovered by scientists at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.

Published: 16-Jan-2008

The material, lithium borohydride, is a promising energy storage system as it contains 18% by weight of hydrogen, which makes it attractive for use in hydrogen-fueled cars. However, it only releases hydrogen at quite high temperatures - above 300C. The team’s breakthrough came when they found a new form of the compound that could release hydrogen in mild conditions.
Scientists say this new form of lithium borohydride is promising because it appears to be unstable. Until now, all the known forms of this material have been too stable, which means that they don’t let the hydrogen go.

“This one is really unexpected and very encouraging”, says Yaroslav Filinchuk, the corresponding author of the paper that appeared in Angewandte Chemie.

In order to obtain new forms of lithium borohydride, the team applied pressures of up to 200,000 bar - about 80 times bigger than the pressure exerted on Earth's crust by Mount Everest. Diffraction of synchrotron light was used to determine arrangement of atoms in the resulting materials. In this way two novel structures of lithium borohydride were found - one of them being truly unprecedented and revealing strikingly short contacts between hydrogen atoms.


The system operates from the Calor Gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or propane that is already on board for cooking. The system will fit comfortably in an aft locker, normally used for a conventional generator.

The Cadillac Provoq fuel cell concept uses GM's E-Flex propulsion system, combining the new fifth-generation fuel cell system and a lithium-ion battery to produce an electrically driven vehicle that uses no petroleum and has no emission other than water.

Powered by a 100 kW electric engine and fuel cell stack, the i-Blue is capable of running more than 370 miles per refueling and achieves a maximum speed of more than 100 miles per hour.


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