Big Step Taken Toward Affordable Hydrogen Cars

Richard+Kaner+and+Maher+El-Kady+device+photo+2017_thmbReplica of a new energy storage and conversion device developed by UCLA engineers. Photo Credit: Reed Hutchinson/UCLA.

Cool Earth news: The only emission from a hydrogen car is water.

“This could dramatically lower the cost of hydrogen cars,” said UCLA Professor Richard Kaner, who, along with his colleagues, has introduced an integrated solar-powered system for both electrochemical energy storage and water electrolysis.

“Now you can make both electricity and fuel with a single device,” Professor Kaner revealed.

Additionally, the device could be part of the solution for cities, towns, and microgrids, that want ways to store surplus electricity generated from their solar panels and wind turbines.

Converting electricity into hydrogen allows energy to be stored indefinitely, notes the professor, who is a UCLA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, as well as of materials science and engineering. Kaner is also a member of UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute.

Traditional hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors have two electrodes: one positive and one negative. The device developed at UCLA has a third electrode that acts as both a supercapacitor, which stores energy, and as a device for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, a process called water electrolysis. All three electrodes connect to a single solar cell that serves as the device’s power source, and the electrical energy harvested by the solar cell can be stored in one of two ways: electrochemically in the supercapacitor or chemically as hydrogen.

The device also is a step forward because it produces hydrogen fuel in an environmentally friendly way.

“Currently, about 95 percent of hydrogen production worldwide comes from converting fossil fuels such as natural gas into hydrogen — a process that releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the air,” said Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the research.

Kaner and El-Kady note that their integrated device (based on the earth-abundant Ni-Co-Fe layered double hydroxide) provides a novel platform for the development of low-cost and highly efficient dual-functional standalone energy materials.

For more about this device, see the UCLA website.

And there’s more!

Need a quick blast of energy? No, not from a Red Bull or Monster, from a supercapacitor.

They’re, well, super. How? For one answer, check out the University of Washington’s new supercapacitor electrode, built on a foundation of aerogel, with inexpensive starting materials and a streamlined synthesis process.

 

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