Step toward safer storage of hydrogen

Step toward safer storage of hydrogen

By Jeff Havens, Staff Writer

Researchers reported in the September 27, 2002 issue of Science, that they have discovered a way to contain hydrogen gas inside a water-ice structure. Such a discovery is another step toward finding safer ways to store molecular hydrogen. This step is necessary to make a hydrogen-based economy possible.

With the supply of fossil fuels expected to drop precipitously within the next twenty years, hydrogen will emerge as the carrier of energy. The energy itself will be produced by renewable means such as solar, wind, water, biomass and geothermal processes. However, one of the problems with making this transition from fossil fuels to hydrogen is finding a safe way to store the molecule.

The results of this research may have implications for future generations of fuel cells. Fuel cells are beginning to power everything from cell phones to automobiles to homes and businesses.

Unlike fossil fuels or most batteries, fuel cells have the potential to produce only water as a waste product, if biomass is not used to make the hydrogen. If biomass is used to generate hydrogen, carbon dioxide would be emitted into the air. However, it may be reabsorbed by plants. The reabsorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide by plants is mandatory in order to not accelerate global warming. Whereas, the use of fossil fuels produces excess carbon dioxide that cannot be reabsorbed by plants quickly enough to prevent global warming.

The research was conducted by scientists at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory, University of Chicago, and Los Alamos

National Laboratory.

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