Hydrogen is increasingly seen as a sustainable solution for energy transition, but today 95 per cent of hydrogen is produced from hydrocarbons, which is the cheapest but most energy-intensive solution. Moreover, finding a material that can store a huge amount of gas for practical use remains a major problem. Recently, Australian researchers have found a new way to safely separate, store and transport large quantities of gas in the form of waste-free powder, allowing for the possible wide distribution of hydrogen energy.
In addition, traditional methods of refining oil use the high-energy "criogen distillation" process to divide crude oil into various gases, including hydrogen, accounting for 15 per cent of world energy consumption, while world hydrogen consumption is less than 2 per cent.
In particular, hydrogen is becoming an energy carrier through the introduction of hydrogen fuel cells, which can help decarbonize some industrial sectors, store energy and provide electricity to buildings and the transport sector, but the introduction of hydrogen technologies is still waiting to overcome a number of obstacles, mainly related to the safe and efficient storage and transport of sufficiently large volumes of gas.
This gas is very light, flammable, without odour and colour; it is well mixed with air, so explosive mixtures can easily be formed; heating can also cause ignition or a severe explosion.
Newly, nanotechnology researchers at the Institute of Border Materials have claimed to have made a major breakthrough in gas separation and storage, which can radically reduce energy consumption in the petrochemical industry and make the storage and transport of hydrogen in powder much easier and safer; their results are presented in the journal "" and their method is at the patenting stage.
Professor Chen, head of the IFM nanotechnology department, describes the history of the study: ".
Currently, hydrogen and other gases are produced mainly by cryogenic distillation; this method is performed on liquefied gas by means of rapid compression and decompression, leading to cooling and liquefying; by gradually heating the gas that has become liquid and by changing boiling points, various components can be separated; however, it is extremely energy-intensive.
In this study, scientists have developed an energy-efficient process of mechanochemical separation that creates no waste; mechanochemistry is a chemical industry that studies the chemical behaviour of materials under mechanical influence, as opposed to heat or light, for example.
A special component of the process, as its authors call it, is the powder of Nitrid Bohr, which is ideal for the absorption of substances. In addition, the Nitrid Bohr is classified as a level-0 chemical, which means its complete safety. In particular, in this process, the powder of Nitrid Bohr is placed in a mill — cylinder.
Dr. Matheti, second author, explains: "The process can thus be repeated to separate gases one by one, since each gas is absorbed at different shredding rates, gas pressure and time. In successive experiments, the authors were able to distinguish a combination of alkins, olefins and paraffins.
The absorbent gas shredding process consumes 76.8 KJ/s to store and separate 1,000 litres of gas. This is almost 90% less than the energy used in the current oil separation process.
Once absorbed into the powder, the gas can be easily and safely transported and stored anywhere.
Professor Chen explains that hydrogen is currently stored either by compression up to 700 bar
He also added: "".
Finally, the IFM team tested the process on a small scale, separating about two or three litres of material, but they expect industry support for a full-scale pilot project, and they filed a preliminary patent application for their process.
Professor Chen concludes: "".