Greek scientists have found a way to safely store hydrogen fuel in nanoscropic scrolls of carbon for use in future cars and portable devices.
They have found that by adding impurities to rolled up sheets of carbon, it is possible to control how tightly the scrolls wind up and hence, how much hydrogen they adsorb.
As part of their research, George Froudakis of the University of Crete and his team carried out computer simulations to see how the hydrogen uptake of carbon nanoscrolls could be affected by adding quantities of different alkali metals.
These impurities cause the atomic distance between the layers of a scroll to vary.
Findings revealed that by adding lithium ions, it is possible to increase the uptake of hydrogen at atmospheric pressure and room temperature from 0.19 percent to 3.31 percent, more than twice amount achieved so far for other materials.
According to Froudakis, hydrogen uptake will increase further as temperature dips.
He said the results are very promising as they provide a potential solution to one of the major problems of hydrogen storage for mobile applications.
Hydrogen has been much touted as the clean fuel of the future for electric vehicles and portable devices. But, despite holding more energy than hydrocarbon fuels, its incredibly low density makes it difficult to store it in sufficient quantity to make it worthwhile.
Liquefying hydrogen by placing it under great pressure is both expensive and potentially dangerous. With a density of just one tenth that of water, it would be necessary to store four times the volume of liquid to match the energy content of gasoline.
As such, the idea has always been to find materials with high surface areas that soak up hydrogen at much higher densities than previously possible, and without the need for extreme cooling or pressurisation.
"Most of the scientists working on this field of research believe that the solution to this problem will arise from the synthesis of new materials," said Froudakis.
The findings appear in the journal Nano Letters, reports New Scientist.