There is general agreement that hydrogen is a good alternative to oil-based fuels. But no such consensus on how to use it, whether it should be burned or processed through a fuel cell.
Now a UK company believes it may have solved the problem, coming up with a method of storage that could allow us all to use it in our existing cars with only minor modifications.
Cella Energy, a spin-off from Oxford University, has developed a method of capturing hydrogen in a powder so fine it behaves like a liquid.
Company representative, Stephen Bennington says, “Because it’s a fluid you can use some of the existing infrastructure that we use for petrol now. So, you can use tankers to carry the material around. You can take it to forecourts and then you can pump it into the vehicle and give the customer the same kind of experience they have now in their vehicles.”
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The process is based on a novel way of making micro-fibers 30 times thinner than a human hair. Cella makes the fibers out of hydrides – materials that soak up hydrogen like a sponge – the result looks like tissue paper. And it is this that is then encased in a plastic coating, allowing the hydrogen to be handled in air and poured into your tank.
“When you go and refuel your car you have two nozzles. One which puts in the new beads and one which takes out the old beads which goes off to be recycled and the hydrogen added to it again,” says Bennington.
All part of the reason the company believes the process could herald a new era of carbon free motoring, according to CEO, Stephen Voller. He says, “The experience that most people have now is using regular liquid fuels where it takes three minutes to fill your vehicle and then you can travel 300 miles. Now you can have exactly the same experience with hydrogen but you can’t have that experience with an electric car.”
Cella Energy says their process could power cars and planes. They say it’s attracting interest from both the energy and transportation sectors, looking for a game-changing alternative to fossil fuels.
Bottom line: A new, safe way of storing hydrogen could allow its widespread use as a carbon-free alternative to petrol, according to its developers. The method involves capturing the gas in tiny plastic beads, which behave like a liquid, allowing it to be moved by tanker and pumped into a fuel tank.