New hydrogen technology revives fuel cells
The core of the technology developed by company Hydrogenious lies in the area of chemistry: the founders discovered that hydrogen can be dissolved in a liquid called LOHC.
Hydrogen is the material that reacts with oxygen to generate electric power in fuel cells – hydrogen thus is the fuel for fuel cells. While ideal in terms of energy content and environment – the energy-generating chemical reaction in the fuel cell creates only pure water and electrical energy, no toxic or environmentally harmful gases – fuel cells so far have failed to prevail in the automotive market, because storage and distribution of hydrogen is very complex and cumbersome.
Storage requires either extremely low temperatures of -253°C (20 Kelvin) or very high pressures of 700 bar. The technology currently under development by Hydrogenious could help carmakers get rid of this limitation; a fuel tank the size of a standard fuel tank in an average car could store enough hydrogen (dissolved in LOHC) to reach a driving range comparable to today’s vehicles, i.e. some 600 to 900 kilometres. And no pressurization, no ultra-low temperatures, the company promises. What’s more, the LOHC technology enables a power density 20 times higher than in a pressurized tank, a company spokesperson explained.
The only downside: The vehicle would need two tanks – one for the unused fuel, the other one for the used, de-energised LOHC carrier liquid that needs to be recycled at fuel stations. Though the liquid is not classified as toxic, it should not be discharged into the environment.
Although the technology looks promising, a quick breakthrough should not be expected, the company spokesperson said. “The technology is already very robust”, he said, “but there is still optimisation needed for the process of hydrogenation and dehydrogenation. Towards this end, suitable catalysers have to be developed “and catalyser development is always a protracted affair,” he said.
Currently, the company sees interest from petrol station network operators and from carmakers, the spokesperson said. In particular Hyundai and Toyota are said to be interested, but since the development goes back to a six-year-old research project in which BMW was involved, the company is also in talks with the Bavarian carmaker.
More information: www.hydrogenious.net