A team of University
of Southern California scientists
has developed an efficient method of using hydrogen as a fuel source.
Hydrogen makes a great fuel because it can be converted easily to
electricity in a fuel cell and because it is carbon free. The downside of
hydrogen is that, because it is a gas, it can only be stored in high pressure
or cryogenic tanks.
In a vehicle with a tank full of hydrogen, “if you got into a wreck, you’d
have a problem,” says Travis Williams, assistant professor of chemistry at the
USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
A possible solution is to store hydrogen in a safe chemical form. Earlier
this year, Williams and his team figured out a way to release hydrogen from an
innocuous chemical material—ammonia borane, a nitrogen-boron complex—that can
be stored as a stable solid.
Now the team has developed a catalyst system that releases enough hydrogen
from its storage in ammonia borane to make it usable as a fuel source.
Moreover, the system is air-stable and reusable, unlike other systems for
hydrogen storage on boron and metal hydrides.
The research was published in the Journal of the American Chemical
“Ours is the first game in town for reusable, air-stabile ammonia borane
dehydrogenation,” Williams says, adding that the USC Stevens Institute for
Innovation is in the process of patenting the system.
The system is sufficiently lightweight and efficient to have potential fuel
applications ranging from motor-driven cycles to small aircraft, he says.