Nanotechnology May Hold Key to Hydrogen Breakthrough

Rutgers University researchers have developed finely textured surface of the metal iridium that can be used to extract hydrogen from carbon-free ammonia.

Published: 31-Mar-2005

lass=box>Nanotechnology could be used to provide hydrogen for fuel cell powered vehicles, according to scientists at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

In a paper to be published next month, Medical News Today reports, the researchers describe how they make a finely textured surface of the metal iridium that can be used to extract hydrogen from ammonia, then captured and fed to a fuel cell.

"The nanostructured surfaces we're examining are model catalysts," said Ted Madey, professor of surface science in the physics department at Rutgers.

So far hydrogen fuel technology has faced the problem of how to store the fuel cost-effectively, something to which nanotechnology could provide the solution.

By using established processes to bind hydrogen with atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia molecules, the resulting liquid would be as easy to handle as gasoline and diesel fuel.

Then, using nanostructured catalysts, pure hydrogen could be extracted under the vehicle's hood as and when it was needed, with the remaining nitrogen harmlessly released back into the atmosphere.

The carbon-free nature of ammonia would also make the fuel cell catalyst less susceptible to deactivation.

The Rutgers researchers are currently performing additional studies to characterize the process more completely. Their work is supported in part by grants from the US Department of Energy's office of basic energy sciences.

President Bush has committed $322 million to the department's 2006 fiscal budget for fuel cell and hydrogen technology programs - a hike of $20.5 million in comparison to the 2005 budget.track

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