Hydrogen powder, the mechanochemical breakthrough for storage
(Sustainabilityenvironment.com) – The new discovery comes from the “fossil” world to transport and store hydrogen easily and safely. How? Turning it into dust. Scientists at Deakin University, Australia, were looking for an alternative method to “cryogenic distillation“, a high-energy process used by refineries to separate crude oil into different gases for end use. And this is how the Institute for Frontier Materials of the university has developed a low-energy mechanochemical method to separate and store gases.
During the process, boron nitride is inserted into a ball mill along with the gases that need to be separated. As the chamber rotates at an ever-increasing speed, the collision of the spheres with the dust and the wall of the chamber triggers a special mechanical reaction with consequent absorption in the dust of hydrogen and other gases (one at a time thanks to different absorption times).
Thus, the dust can be transported easily and safely, and to release the gas just heat it under vacuum.
For now, the IFM team has tested the process on a small scale, separating two to three litres of material. But they hope to be able to expand the pilot project and have already filed an application for a provisional patent. “We need to further validate this method with industry to develop a practical application,” said Professor Ying Chen. “To move it from the laboratory to a larger industrial scale, we need to verify that it is convenient, more efficient and faster than traditional methods of gas separation and storage”. The research was published in Materials Today.