Breakthrough!New catalysts are expected to optimize the dehydrogenation process of hydrogen fuel cells with simple and low cost

2022-04-24 0 By

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have developed a catalyst that can easily and efficiently extract hydrogen from hydrogen storage materials.The process takes place at room temperature and normal atmospheric conditions without the use of metals or additives.The breakthrough offers a promising new solution to the long-standing challenge of using hydrogen fuel in transportation and other applications.Hydrogen fuel is a potential solution in a nationwide effort to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.According to the U.S. Department of Energy, improving hydrogen storage is key to advancing hydrogen fuel cell technology.At Ames National Laboratory, scientists Long Qi and Wenyu Huang studied ways to extract hydrogen from a material called liquid Airborne Hydrogen Bodies (LOHCs).One way to store hydrogen is chemically.Chemical storage relies on materials that react with hydrogen molecules and store them as hydrogen atoms, such as LOHCs.This storage allows large amounts of hydrogen to be stored in small volumes at ambient temperatures.However, in order for hydrogen to be useful, a catalyst is needed to activate the LOHCs and release the hydrogen, a process called dehydrogenation.Other dehydrogenation methods exist, but they present some challenges, Qi explains.Some methods rely on metal-based catalysts, which involve key platinum group metals.The supply of these metals is limited and expensive.Other methods require additives to release the hydrogen.These additives cannot be reused and the total cost is high because they need to be added during each cycle.In the latest study, Qi and Huang developed catalysts that did not require metals or additives.The researchers said, “It’s simple.Basically, if you add a metal-free catalyst to the LOHC, hydrogen will jump out, even at room temperature.”Specifically, the catalyst consists of nitrogen and carbon.The key to its efficiency is the structure of nitrogen.Catalytic activity can take place at room temperature because of the uniquely tightly spaced graphite-like nitrogen atoms that form as nitrogen components during carbonization.Nitrogen components can catalyze the cleavage of c-H bonds in LOHCs and facilitate the desorption of hydrogen molecules.This process is what makes the catalyst more effective than other catalysts on the market.In 2019, transportation accounted for 29 percent of total CARBON dioxide emissions in the United States.Prof Qi said the convenience and efficiency of the process could benefit the transport industry in the future.The new technique allows usable hydrogen to be extracted from storage at a lower cost and under milder conditions than current techniques.The greater hydrogen density could provide a greater charge to the hydrogen fuel cell, which could power the car for longer distances.The researchers stressed that the study was an important step in supporting countries to become carbon neutral by 2050, providing a simple and effective approach.The results were recently published in the journal Science Advances.