Claim: Hydrogen powered cars for the masses one step closer to reality
WUWT ^ | 8/20/17 | Anthony Watts

UCLA researchers have designed a device that can use solar energy to
inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be
used to power electronic devices, and to create hydrogen fuel for
eco-friendly cars.

The device could make hydrogen cars affordable for many more consumers
because it produces hydrogen using nickel, iron and cobalt — elements
that are much more abundant and less expensive than the platinum and
other precious metals that are currently used to produce hydrogen

“Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles: It is the cleanest fuel known,
it’s cheap and it puts no pollutants into the air — just water,” said
Richard Kaner, the study’s senior author and a UCLA distinguished
professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and of materials science and
engineering. “And this could dramatically lower the cost of hydrogen

The technology, described in a paper in the journal Energy Storage
Materials, could be especially useful in rural areas, or to military
units serving in remote locations.

“People need fuel to run their vehicles and electricity to run their
devices,” Kaner said. “Now you can make both electricity and fuel with
a single device.”

It could also be part of a solution for large cities that need ways to
store surplus electricity from their electrical grids.

“If you could convert electricity to hydrogen, you could store it
indefinitely,” said Kaner, who also is a member of UCLA’s California
NanoSystems Institute.

Traditional hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors have two
electrodes: one positive and one negative. The device developed at
UCLA has a third electrode that acts as both a supercapacitor, which
stores energy, and as a device for splitting water into hydrogen and
oxygen, a process called water electrolysis. All three electrodes
connect to a single solar cell that serves as the device’s power
source, and the electrical energy harvested by the solar cell can be
stored in one of two ways: electrochemically in the supercapacitor or
chemically as hydrogen.

The device also is a step forward because it produces hydrogen fuel in
an environmentally friendly way. Currently, about 95 percent of
hydrogen production worldwide comes from converting fossil fuels such
as natural gas into hydrogen — a process that releases large
quantities of carbon dioxide into the air, said Maher El-Kady, a UCLA
postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the research.

“Hydrogen energy is not ‘green’ unless it is produced from renewable
sources,” El-Kady said. He added that using solar cells and abundantly
available elements to split water into hydrogen and oxygen has
enormous potential for reducing the cost of hydrogen production and
that the approach could eventually replace the current method, which
relies on fossil fuels.

Combining a supercapacitor and the water-splitting technology into a
single unit, Kaner said, is an advance similar to the first time a
phone, web browser and camera were combined on a smartphone. The new
technology may eventually lead to new applications that even the
researchers haven’t considered yet, Kaner said.

The researchers designed the electrodes at the nanoscale — thousands
of times thinner than the thickness of a human hair — to ensure the
greatest surface area would be exposed to water, which increases the
amount of hydrogen the device can produce and also stores more charge
in the supercapacitor. Although the device the researchers made would
fit in the palm of your hand, Kaner said it would be possible to make
larger versions because the components are inexpensive.

“For hydrogen cars to be widely used, there remains a need for a
technology that safely stores large quantities of hydrogen at normal
pressure and temperature, instead of the pressurized cylinders that
are currently in use,” said Mir Mousavi, a co-author of the paper and
a professor of chemistry at Iran’s Tarbiat Modares University.

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