A "cagey" strategy to stack more hydrogen in nanoscale scaffoldings made of zinc-based boxes may yield a viable approach to storing hydrogen and, ultimately, replacing fossil fuels in future automobiles, according to new results from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers.
Using beams of neutrons as probes, NIST scientists determined where hydrogen latches onto the lattice-like arrangement of zinc and oxygen clusters in a custom-made material known as a metal-organic framework, or MOF. Called MOF5, the particular nanoscale material studied by Taner Yildirim and Michael Hartman has four types of docking sites, including a "surprising" three-dimensional network of "nano-cages" that appears to form after other sites load up with hydrogen.
This finding, reported in Physical Review Letters,* suggests that MOF materials might be engineered to optimize both the storage of hydrogen and its release under normal vehicle operating conditions. It also suggests that MOFs might be used as templates for interlinking hydrogen nano-cages, creating materials with unusual properties due to a phenomenon known as quantum confinement. In a sense, this discovery is a bonus.
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