Chemical engineers at Purdue University have found a promising new process, called hydrothermolysis, that could improve the efficiency of hydrogen fuel cell cars.
How Hydrothermolysis Works
Combining two hydrogen-generating processes, hydrolysis and thermolysis -- neither of which are practical for vehicle applications by themselves -- hydrothermolysis produces high hydrogen yields at near fuel cell temperatures without the need for a catalyst.
Hydrolysis on its own requires a catalyst, and thermolysis requires a temperature exceeding that of a hydrogen fuel cell. But combined, the two seem to be workable.
The new process also uses Ammonia borane, a powdered chemical compound that contains 19.6 percent hydrogen, which means a high yield from a relatively small amount.
"The key is how to efficiently release the hydrogen from this compound, and that is what we have discovered," said Arvind Varma, R. Games Slayter Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering.
According to Varma, "...the U.S. Department of Energy has set a 2015 target of 5.5 weight percent hydrogen for hydrogen storage systems, meaning available hydrogen should be at least 5.5 percent of a system's total weight."
"If you're only yielding, say, 7% hydrogen from the material, you're not going to make this 5.5% requirement once you consider the combined weight of the entire system (and all the required equipment)."
Lab tests have found that hydrothermolysis yields upwards of 14% in optimum conditions. A significant improvement from all previous testing and methods to date.
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