In October 2007, I had talked about how a group of researchers had discovered that fullerenes hold great promise for hydrogen storage. These nano-scale fullerenes (also known as buckyballs) are the subject of a new article published by researchers at Rice University in the upcoming journal Nano Letters from the American Chemical Society.
These large, autobon buckyballs, comprised of 60 atoms form a cage-like structure and hold hydrogen atoms inside until they are encouraged to release the gas. The Rice researchers such as Boris Yakobson theorize that these buckyballs, when commercially developed, may take the form of fine powder.
According to Yakobson, “They will likely assemble into weak molecular crystals or form a thin powder. They might find use in their whole form or be punctured under certain conditions to release pure hydrogen for fuel cells or other types of engines.”
Yakobson and his have used computer modeling to track the strength of the buckyball bonds. The researchers have also studied what measures are necessary (such as overstuffing the buckballs with hydrogen) to break those bonds.
Hydrogen storage has been one of the long-standing issues getting in the way of the rollout of a national hydrogen transportation system. With the advent of nano research and in particular research on fullerenes, buckyballs may just get the ball rolling in this area.