Issue Date: March 21, 2011
Regenerating Hydrogen-Fuel Storage Material
Taking a step toward a world powered by hydrogen, rather than predominantly by fossil fuels, researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Alabama have developed a simple method for recycling ammonia borane (NH3BH3), a potential hydrogen-rich fuel (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1199003). Although scientists have made recent progress in catalyzing the release of H2 from the storage compound NH3BH3, “a big piece of the puzzle still missing is how to recharge the spent fuel,” says Karen I. Goldberg, a catalysis researcher at the University of Washington. Release of more than two equivalents of H2 from NH3BH3 results in the formation of the spent-fuel compound polyborazylene. By mixing this spent-fuel compound with hydrazine (N2H4) in liquid ammonia at 40 °C for 24 hours, the research team was able to regenerate the NH3BH3 at 92% yield. For the process to become industrially useful, manufacturers would need to address the production, cost, and safety of hydrazine, but this regeneration scheme is an “exciting” development in the field of chemical hydrogen storage, Goldberg says.
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