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!
Nano-scale process may speed arrival of cheaper hi-tech products
09.11.2018 | University of Edinburgh
Nuclear fusion: wrestling with burning questions on the control of 'burning plasmas'
25.10.2018 | Lehigh University
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences