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EPSRC Press Release Issue Date: Tuesday 22nd May 2007
A new breakthrough in hydrogen storage technology could remove a key barrier to widespread uptake of non-polluting cars that produce no carbon dioxide emissions.
UK scientists have developed a compound of the element lithium which may make it practical to store enough hydrogen on-board fuel-cell-powered cars to enable them to drive over 300 miles before refuelling.
The breakthrough has been achieved by a team from the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, under the auspices of the UK Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium (UK-SHEC funded by the SUPERGEN).
The UK-SHEC research has therefore focused on a different approach which could enable hydrogen to be stored at a much higher density and within acceptable weight limits. The option involves a well-established process called chemisorption , in which atoms of a gas are absorbed into the crystal structure of a solid-state material and then released when needed.
The team has tested thousands of solid-state compounds in search of a light, cheap, readily available material which would enable the absorption/desorption process to take place rapidly and safely at typical fuel cell operating temperatures. They have now produced a variety of lithium hydride (specifically Li4BN3H10) that could offer the right blend of properties. Development work is now needed to further investigate the potential of this powder.
“This could be the breakthrough that the fuel cell industry and the transport sector have waited for,” says UK-SHEC’s Project Co-ordinator Professor Peter Edwards of the University of Oxford. “It’s due to SUPERGEN’s vision of combining many of the leading groups in the UK to tackle this, arguably the biggest challenge for the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. This work could make a key contribution to helping fuel cell cars become viable for mass-manufacture within around 10 years.”
“They offer particular potential in the transport sector, which is a major source of the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion that are the main contributor to climate change. An average new petrol-fuelled car currently produces over 3 tonnes of CO2 a year.”
Andy Pag, 34, from London, and 39-year-old John Grimshaw, from Poole, will drive more than 4,500 miles to Timbuktu, in Mali, in a bid to raise public awareness about biofuels and the role they can play in reducing the impact of climate change.
Their vehicles will run on a fuel created by Lancashire-based biodiesel producers Ecotech, who have developed a process to turn waste chocolate - yes, such a thing does exist - into bioethanol. The chocolate waste would otherwise end up in landfill.
The team will drive a Ford Iveco Cargo lorry for most of the journey, which will carry two 4x4 landcruisers that they will have to use for the last 200km of the journey. All three vehicles will run on biodiesel. They will also deliver a biodiesel processing unit to MFC, a Malian charity, which will allow biodiesel to be produced locally from used cooking oil. www.edie.net...