General Motors Corp. and Sandia National Laboratories have joined forces in a project that may eventually lead to a more viable fuel-cell vehicle. The two have partnered to develop a method for storing hydrogen that is based on metal hydrides. The eventual goal of the research is to develop a pre-prototype, solid-state hydrogen storage tank that can store more hydrogen than current conventional methods, thereby increasing the range of fuel-cell vehicles.
Metal hydrides, which are formed when metal alloys are combined with hydrogen, can absorb and store hydrogen within their structures, releasing that hydrogen when subjected to heat, explains Sandia.
The Detroit automaker and national lab have partnered in a four-year, $10 million program to develop and test tanks that store hydrogen in a complex hydride, sodium aluminum hydride. "Hydrides have shown significant early promise to one day increase the range of fuel cell vehicles," says Jim Spearot, director of the GM Advanced Hydrogen Storage Program. "We know a lot of research still needs to be done, both on the types of hydrides we use, as well as the tanks we store them in."
Sandia says hydride-based storage continues to present challenges. For example, most complex metal hydrides operate at too high a temperature, which creates an inefficiency that forces some of the hydrogen to be used up in order to release the remaining hydrogen. Additionally, work needs to be done to reduce the time it takes to reabsorb hydrogen.