Catch-and-release solid-state fuel cell material operates coolly

Using a catch-and-release method of swapping out hydrogen atoms, scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Connecticut have tested a solid-state hydrogen storage material that operates at low temperatures. Scientists improved the dynamics of the reversible system at a significantly lower temperature by employing additives and a mechanical process called “ball milling.” These results tackle two prime objectives for improving the performance and safety of hydrogen fuel cells: lower the temperature and increase the storage capacity.

Finding a practical fuel cell technology requires the development of an on board fuel storage system that operates in a safe and efficient manner. In this study of one hydrogen fuel cell system, scientists sought to understand the mechanism of a reversible method of dehydrogenation and hydrogenation, the “catch-and-release” of hydrogen fuel to create a constant current in the fuel cell. One disadvantage: the material they chose to study must be heated to extremely high temperatures for this process to occur. By employing additives and a mechanical technique, somewhat like very small-scale rock tumbling called “ball milling,” they found that they could reduce the temperature of the reaction. The results promote our understanding of applying additives and mechanical methods to optimize solid-state hydrogen storage for fuel cells.

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