New technologies could make hydrogen cars a reality
New technological developments in materials science could help make the hydrogen car a far more viable alternative to electric and fossil fuel vehicles.
Electric cars are considered the immediate answer to reducing fossil fuel pollution but hydrogen models have remained a very attractive alternative to even EV technologies.
In many cases, hydrogen cars are more environmentally friendly than electric cars as they have a longer potential range and not only that, they can be refueled in minutes and do not require the manufacturing of a bulky battery.
The process of producing and distributing the hydrogen fuel has limited its mass availability in the automotive market and at the moment, the best-known example is the Toyota’s Mirai.
Researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) believe they can solve this problem, by using a new liquid-metal membrane technology.
Pure hydrogen is obtained by pouring water through a membrane made from the precious metal palladium, which allows large quantities of hydrogen to come out the other side.
The problem is that palladium is incredibly expensive and fragile, making it unfeasible for global use.
In a new paper published in the Journal of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the WPI team believes it has found a viable alternative in cheaper liquid metals, such as graphite and silicon carbide.
Up until now there has been no apparent palladium alternative in sight. Scientists have attempted to make the membrane thinner and thinner, which can make the process a lot cheaper, to the point that they were testing layers as thing as five microns.
When the metals are liquefied using intense heat, they are placed into a membrane that has the same effect as palladium, but is not prone to defects or cracks that normally would render palladium unusable.
The new membrane has been tested and confirmed to be permeable to hydrogen but the question now is, whether it can be utilised on an industrial scale for the hydrogen cars of the future.
“By demonstrating the feasibility of sandwiched liquid-metal membranes, we have opened the door to a highly promising new area of hydrogen energy research,” said Ravindra Datta, head of the study.
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