Using Hydrogen — A Solid Approach

By | November 24, 2009

Dispatches from a rapidly changing, rapidly improving world

Special Dispatch
November 24, 2009

We’ll be running daily BATT’s all Thanksgiving week.

We’ve talked a lot over the last couple of months about what (if any) role hydrogen has to play in our energy future. Recognizing that hydrogen is best viewed as an energy transport mechanism rather than a fuel source — think of it as one option for the future of battery technology — the question then becomes one of whether hydrogen can be made easy to store and transport.


What we see here may be the beginning of a yes:


The useful noble gas may provide a breakthrough way to store hydrogen for fuel

Science under pressure can produce marvelous results, such as an entirely new way to store hydrogen fuel. Researchers combined the noble gas xenon with molecular hydrogen (H2) to make a never-before-seen solid that opens the doors to an entire new family of materials for hydrogen storage.

Researchers used a diamond anvil device to squeeze together xenon and hydrogen, and create high pressures reaching 41,000 times the normal pressure at sea level. The hydrogen atoms formed a lattice structure embedded with loosely bonded xenon pairs, which eventually formed tightly bound xenon pairs under even greater pressures ranging up to 225,000 times the atmosphere at sea level.

The unusually stable solid may clue scientists in on a new method of storing hydrogen. Vehicles from automobiles to aerial drones could run on hydrogen fuel, but only if researchers can figure out how to store enough of the low-density gas within a small enough space to make it cost-effective.


This is still a step or two away from being a solution. Getting hydrogen into a compact and stable form is a big step in the right direction, but the linked article goes on to point out that Xenon makes for a good proof-of-concept, but probably wouldn’t cut it as a real-world hydrogen stabilizer. Back to the old Drawing Board Periodic Table, I guess.


The other issue is how to produce the power that you’re storing with hydrogen. Fortunately, there are many options available.



Live to see it!