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Clean Energy: Carbon Nanohorns for the Storage of Hydrogen

Hydrogen would be the ideal candidate to replace fossil fuels if only it wasn't so difficult to store it safely. Researchers at CNRS have discovered a storage solution which is both efficient and cheap: carbon nanohorns. With such structures, the hydrogen-carbon bond is far more stable than with nanotubes. This study removes the obstacles which prevented any possibility of carbon-based nanomaterials finding industrial applications.

Hydrogen, which is the most abundant element in the Universe, is a renewable energy source which could replace fossil fuels. It is non-polluting: the only by-product during its extraction is water. However, the fact that it is difficult to store both safely and cheaply has until now meant that its use has remained marginal.

Among the storage methods currently in existence, storing it by adsorption in metals appears too expensive. However, trapping hydrogen in porous materials is not only efficient (all the hydrogen adsorbed can be recovered) but cheap. What's more, the cycle of hydrogen storage and release does not require any reactivation or regeneration of the material. Because of their low mass and high adsorption capacity, carbon-based nanostructures (nanotubes or nanohorns)turn out to be excellent candidates as porous materials. However, carbon nanotubes have a major drawback: using them for storage is only possible at extremely low temperatures (below -196oC), due to the weak interaction between hydrogen and carbon, and this restricts commercial applications. So the future possibility of storing hydrogen inside carbon-based porous materials, as part of a clean energy scheme, closely depends on the force of the interaction between hydrogen and carbon, and on how easily this force can be increased.

Researchers at the Centre de recherche sur la mati

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