There’s been a lot of research in materials sciences in finding cheaper alternatives in which to store hydrogen or use as catalysts for hydrogen reactions. Most of this breakthrough technology perpetually seems to be 10 to 20 years away before commercialization.
This is why when I heard about what the researchers at the University of Texas, Dallas are doing in regard to titanium-doped aluminum I got a bit excited since this seems to me to be more of a near-term solution rather than a longer term pie-in-the-sky idea.
The UTD researchers noticed that light-weight aluminum hydrides can be made to release its hydrogen bond by slightly increasing the temperature which is an advantage over current metal hydride systems that require more energy in order to release their bonds.
According to graduate student Irinder Singh Chopra, “We investigated a certain class of materials called complex metal hydrides (aluminum-based hydrides) in the hope of finding cheaper and more effective means of activating hydrogen.
“Our research into an aluminum-based catalyst turned out to be much more useful than just designing good storage materials. It has also provided very encouraging results into the possible use of this system as a very cheap and effective alternative to the materials currently used for fuel cells.”
So, let’s think about this statement for a moment. If it is true that titanium-doped aluminum holds the key for both hydrogen storage and as a catalyst in fuel cells, this will bring the price of storage tanks and FC’s way down without giving up any effectiveness. In fact, in the case of storage, hydrogen tanks will be more effective at releasing H2 at lower temperatures. And this, my friend, is a very Big Deal.
Pictured above are UTD researchers Irinder Chopra (left) and Jean-Francois Veyan.