General Motors and Sandia National Laboratories have launched a partnership to develop a high-tech hydrogen fuel cell using metal hydrides. Itís a four-year, $10 million program to build a pre-prototype storage tank for hydrogen. Hydrogen storage is one problem that must be solved before a hydrogen economy becomes practical. This project may eventually lead to fuel tanks and fuel cells that can be quickly and safely refilled or recharged.
Metal hydrides --- formed when metal alloys are combined with hydrogen --- can absorb and store hydrogen within their structures.
GM and Sandia, a National Nuclear Security Administration lab, have embarked on a 4-year, $10 million program to develop and test tanks that store hydrogen in a complex hydride, sodium aluminum hydride --- or sodium alanate for short.
The goal is to develop a pre-prototype solid-state hydrogen storage tank that would store more hydrogen onboard a fuel cell vehicle than current conventional hydrogen storage methods.
"Hydrides have shown significant early promise to one day increase the range of fuel cell vehicles," says Jim Spearot, director, GM Advanced Hydrogen Storage Program.
"We are designing a hydrogen storage system with challenging thermal management requirements and limits on volume and weight," says Chris Moen, manager of science and engineering technologies at Sandia.
"This is the kind of public private research partnership that will help us realize the President's vision, communicated in his 2003 State of the Union Address, that 'the first car driven by a child born today can be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free,'" said DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham.
"Over the long term, because of the President's visionary leadership, clean, efficient hydrogen fuel technologies like this will help make our nation far less reliant on foreign sources of energy."
Researchers will analyze these designs using thermal and mechanical modeling, develop controls systems for hydrogen
transfer and storage, and develop designs for external heat management.
GM and Sandia scientists will also be testing various shapes --- from cylindrical to semi-conformable --- to see which are the most promising.
A possible scenario for filling up with a solid-state storage
solution such as sodium alanate could look like this: The alanate would come preloaded in the tank, where it would remain, giving up its hydrogen, and becoming a mixture of sodium hydride and aluminum.
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