While hydrogen fuel cells have a huge potential to shift our transportation industry towards a cleaner future, one of the main reasons why the technology hasn’t yet reached scale is because hydrogen is incredibly volatile and challenging to store and transport.
In a bid to overcome this obstacle, a research team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM) in Dresden, Germany, has figured out a way to turn the gas into a paste that’s easy to use as a fuel.
Called POWERPASTE, the invention provides a secure way of storing hydrogen in chemical form, rendering it safe for transportation. The hydrogen paste is based on magnesium hydride, which can be kept at atmospheric pressure and room temperature as well as released on-demand, making it more convenient to use.
Additionally, the paste only begins to decompose at 250C, meaning that the storage container would be able to withstand high outdoor temperature without any risk. What’s more, magnesium is one of the most abundant elements in Earth’s crust, so it’s a readily available raw material.
According to Dr. Marcus Vogt, a research associate at Fraunhofer IFAM, POWERPASTE can also be praised for its impressive energy storage properties which would increase a vehicle’s range significantly:
“POWERPASTE thus has a huge energy storage density. It is substantially higher than that of a 700 bar high-pressure tank. This means that POWERPASTE offers a range comparable to – or even greater than – gasoline. And it also provides a higher range than compressed hydrogen at a pressure of 700 bar. And compared to batteries, it has ten times the energy storage density.”
The first pilot factory to produce the hydrogen paste is expected to start operating this year, projected to produce four tons of viscous energy per year.