EPFL scientists have completed their solution for transforming hydrogen gas into a less flammable liquid fuel that can be safely stored and transported
Hydrogen is often touted as the fuel of the future. But because this gas is highly explosive, it must be stored and transported under pressure in specialized and expensive containers. Hydrogen therefore has issues in terms of safety, logistics, and profitability that could significantly limit its wider use.
However, a solution might lie in research by EPFL scientists, who have developed a simple system based on two chemical reactions. The first reaction transforms hydrogen into formic acid, a liquid that is easy to store and less flammable than gasoline, while the second reaction does the reverse and restores the hydrogen.
Another possible application of their technology would be to use atmospheric CO2 to synthesize a number of useful chemical products.
Gabor Laurenczy's team has already developed a process for transforming formic acid into hydrogen gas. The method was the subject of several articles, one of which appeared in Science, and it is currently under industrial development.
But a complete and coherent system would also require the inverse process: transforming hydrogen into formic acid. This has now been achieved, completing the cycle, thanks to the financial support of EOS Holding. The scientists in Laurenczy's team have described the process in a Nature Communications article.
The researchers synthesized formic acid in a single step, starting with hydrogen and atmospheric CO2. Conventional methods to accomplish this involve several steps, which are complicated to carry out and generate undesirable chemical byproducts.
The two chemical reactions – hydrogen to formic acid and back to hydrogen - are catalytic: the advantage is that nothing is lost in the transformation, and the process can thus be used in constructing sustainable devices.
With their two catalytic reactions, the researchers now possess all the technology they need to build a complete, integrated device. Laurenczy envisions small energy storage units in which the current from photovoltaic cells produces hydrogen by electrolysis, which is then transformed and stored as formic acid, and finally transformed back into hydrogen to produce electricity at night-time. "Our procedure is simple enough that it can be implemented at the domestic level," he says.
Another possible application of this technology would be to use atmospheric CO2, a greenhouse gas, as a building-block for chemical synthesis. Formic acid is the basis of numerous organic syntheses, e.g. in the textile industry.
As Laurenczy explains: "We are killing two birds with one stone: we could sequester part of the 35 gigatons of CO2 that are emitted into the atmosphere every year, and also use it to synthesize materials."
Lionel Pousaz | Eurek Alert!
Ultra-Thin Hollow Nanocages Could Reduce Platinum Use in Fuel Cell Electrodes
27.07.2015 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Did you know that specialty light sources are used to ensure the quality of baby food?
27.07.2015 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.
By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...
Argonne scientists used Mira to identify and improve a new mechanism for eliminating friction, which fed into the development of a hybrid material that exhibited superlubricity at the macroscale for the first time. Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) researchers helped enable the groundbreaking simulations by overcoming a performance bottleneck that doubled the speed of the team's code.
While reviewing the simulation results of a promising new lubricant material, Argonne researcher Sanket Deshmukh stumbled upon a phenomenon that had never been...
A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away.
The color images of Earth from NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) are generated by combining three separate images to create a...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
27.07.2015 | Materials Sciences
27.07.2015 | Information Technology
27.07.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering