A new type of catalyst, here in crystal form, efficiently
turns methanol into hydrogen, which can then power
a fuel cell. BARBARA HELLER/LIKAT

 
NATURE | NEWS

Liquid storage could make hydrogen a feasible fuel

Catalyst efficiently recovers the gas from easily stored methanol.
Richard Van Noorden
27 February 2013

A process for extracting hydrogen from a liquid fuel could remove one of the biggest hurdles to a ‘hydrogen economy’, its discoverers say. They have developed a catalyst that harvests the gas from methanol, a liquid fuel that — unlike hydrogen itself — can be easily transported and stored.

Matthias Beller, a chemical engineer at the University of Rostock in Germany, and his colleagues hope that methanol might one day be sluiced through pipelines and poured into tankers, before chemical reactions convert the liquid back to hydrogen where it is needed — for example to provide power to off-grid villages, or run cars or mobile devices.

Hydrogen has a high energy density and is completely clean, burning to leave behind only water vapour as waste. It cannot be mined in large amounts, but proponents of a hydrogen economy say that it could be produced in vast quantities from water using excess electricity from wind turbines and solar plants. Unfortunately, because hydrogen is a gas it is difficult to store and transport safely unless compressed or liquefied, which is cumbersome and takes a lot of energy. Many chemists have spent decades studying how best to trap hydrogen for use as a fuel.

Read more: Liquid storage could make hydrogen a feasible fuel : Nature News & Comment.

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