Using the world’s thinnest material, graphene, which is just one atom thick, mechanical engineers at the University of Maryland have found that they can make tiny squares of graphene fold into a box, which will open and close itself in response to an electric charge. Inside the box, they’ve tucked hydrogen atoms, and have done so more efficiently than was thought possible.
According to the US Department of Energy, hydrogen storage is a key enabling technology for the advancement of hydrogen and fuel cell power technologies in transportation, stationary, and portable applications. The DOE is searching for ways to make storing energy with hydrogen a practical possibility.
Department goals include: by 2017 development of techniques that enable packing in 5.5 percent hydrogen by weight, and by 2020, stretching this achievement to 7.5 percent. The University of Maryland team has already crossed those thresholds, with a hydrogen storage density of 9.5 percent hydrogen by weight. The team has also demonstrated the potential to reach an even higher density and doing so is a future research goal.
Graphene keeps popping up in the news for a variety of energy-related uses. A Michigan scientist and his team have developed an inexpensive three-dimensional graphene honeycomb that they say can replace the very expensive platinum used in solar cells. And at UCLA, scientists have used a laser optical drive and graphene to produce micro supercapacitors.