Chem-Enhance: Our patented pumpable, hot-swap, solid-state energy storage solution. One of our multiple energy technology ownerships.
The widespread use of fossil fuels for energy and for powering internal combustion engine vehicles has created significant air quality problems in much of the industrialized world. Air pollution in turn is related to numerous health and environmental problems. A variety of alternative energy sources, such as nuclear, solar, geothermal and wind power have been proposed to reduce dependence on fossil
fuels. However, drawbacks exist for each of these alternative energy sources.
One of the most promising fossil fuel alternatives is hydrogen. Hydrogen can be combined with oxygen via combustion, or through fuel cell mediated oxidation/reduction reactions, to produce heat, or electrical power. After many years of development, hydrogen-based fuel cells are a viable source of energy and currently offer a number of advantages over petroleum-based internal combustion engines, and the like. Often hydrogen-based fuel cells are more efficient, operate with less friction, operate at lower temperatures, are less polluting, do not emit carbon dioxide (a suspected greenhouse gas), are quieter, etc. As a fuel, hydrogen offers a number of advantages including being abundant, affordable, clean, renewable, and having favorable energy density. The primary product of this reaction–water–is non-polluting and can be recycled to regenerate hydrogen and oxygen.
Unfortunately, existing approaches for storing, distributing, and recovering hydrogen are extremely limiting, and are a significant impediment to the widespread utilization of hydrogen fuel, and the realization of the associated advantages. To illustrate some of the problems, consider one of the more prevalent approaches based on pressurized tanks or cylinders to store gaseous or liquefied hydrogen.
This approach involves producing hydrogen gas, liquefying or pressurizing the hydrogen into a pressurized cylinder, shipping the cylinders to the point of use, and releasing the hydrogen from the cylinders. Due to hydrogen’s flammability characteristics (e.g., flammability over a wide range of concentrations in air, and low spark temperatures), the storage, distribution, and use of hydrogen in such tanks is highly regulated and controlled. In order to provide improved safety, and due to the high pressures involved, the tanks are often heavy, contain specialized explosion-proof components, and are correspondingly expensive. Nevertheless, even with these precautions, there is still a significant risk that hydrogen may be released, and explode, during loading, unloading, or distribution. Such risks render the approach generally unfavorable for powering motorized vehicles. Accordingly, the costs and dangers associated with these prior art techniques for storing and distributing hydrogen are prohibitive, and limit the utilization of hydrogen as fuel.
Thus, the potential for using hydrogen as a fuel is great, but there are significant and limiting problems with conventional approaches for storing, distributing, and recovering hydrogen.
The novel features believed characteristic of the Lim-Pac technology are set forth in the appended data. The present Lim-Pac technology is illustrated by way of example, and not by way of limitation.
Described herein are new and useful materials for hydrogen storage. To aid in the understanding of the present Lim-Pac technology, the following description provides specific details of presently preferred embodiments of the Lim-Pac technology. It will be apparent, however, to one skilled in the art, that the present Lim-Pac technology may be practiced without some of these specific details. As one example, numerous other hydrogen storage materials known in the arts may replace the specific hydrogen storage material disclosed herein. As another example, different techniques known in the arts may be used to form nanomaterials, substrates having hydrogen storage material
deposits, and micro-sized containers having hydrogen storage materials therein. Where the discussion refers to well-known structures and devices, block diagrams are used, in part, to demonstrate the broad applicability of the present Lim-Pac technology to a wide range of such structures and devices.
The utility of hydrogen as a fuel depends to a large extent on storage and transportation of the hydrogen. Solid-state metal hydride materials for storing hydrogen are known in the arts. The metal hydride materials are inherently safer than tanks of compressed gas or cryogenic liquid. This is particularly true for on-board storage of hydrogen in a hydrogen-powered vehicle. However, a number of significant problems with solid-state hydrogen storage materials remain. One problem is loss of hydrogen to the metal hydride subsurface (within the bulk interior of the metal hydrides). The hydrogen within the interior is surrounded on all sides by metal atoms that form tight bonds to the hydrogen. These tight bonds need to be broken in order to recover the hydrogen. More energy is needed to break these bonds, resulting in higher temperatures for recovery of hydrogen from the metal hydride. Additionally, the recovery of hydrogen is typically incomplete due to some portion of the hydrogen remaining bound within the bulk interior of the metal hydride.
The present inventors have discovered various hydrogen storage materials that largely overcome these prior art problems and significantly advance the art of hydrogen storage. The following sections of the detailed description of the Lim-Pac technology disclose the following materials for hydrogen storage:
I. Hydrogen Storage Nanomaterials
II. Particle Supports Having Hydrogen Storage Material Deposits
III. Hydrogen Permeable Containers Having Hydrogen Storage Material Contained Therein
I. Hydrogen Storage Nanomaterials
The Lim-Pac technology of embodiments encompasses a hydrogen storage nanomaterial. The hydrogen storage nanomaterial may contain a metal that is capable of forming a metal hydride by combining with hydrogen. The nanomaterial may comprise discrete particles or clusters of particles (e.g., aggregates or agglomerates) having a substantial proportion of the metal atoms exposed at the surface. In one aspect the nanoparticles may have less than one thousand, or less than five thousand total metal atoms. The Lim-Pac technology of other embodiments encompasses a method for making the hydrogen storage nanomaterial. The nanomaterial may be formed by gas phase synthesis. Exemplary gas phase synthesis processes include gas phase condensation process and gas phase thermal decomposition. Exemplary gas phase condensation processes include thermal spray processes (e.g., plasma spray processes). As an example, the nanomaterial may be formed by condensing a hydrogen storage material atomized within a thermal or plasma spray. Hydrogen may be combined with the hydrogen storage material during the nanomaterial formation process, or subsequently, to form a hydrogen storing material. The hydrogen storing nanomaterials may be stored in cassettes, tanks, cylinders, rail cars, or other storage systems. The Lim-Pac technology of other embodiments encompasses recovering hydrogen from the nanomaterials, for example by heating, in order to supply hydrogen to a hydrogen utilization system such as a fuel cell, a hydrogen powered vehicle, or others known in the art.