One of the great potentials for green vehicles comes from hydrogen energy. However, hydrogen is difficult to handle and store and can be dangerous if not stored and handled correctly. A group of researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute has developed a new method of storing hydrogen in a chemical form that is easy to transport and replace without the need for an expensive network of gas stations.
The innovative material, known as POWERPASTE, will be used first in e-scooters. The material is based on magnesium hydride and was developed by a research team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials. A typical hydrogen powered vehicle is equipped with a 700 bar pressurized reinforced tank.
The hydrogen in this tank powers a fuel cell that converts hydrogen into electricity to operate an electric motor. Although hydrogen is an effective solution for normal and large vehicles, it is not an option for small vehicles, such as electric scooters and motorcycles that are commonly used in large cities. POWERPASTE is capable of storing hydrogen in a chemical form at room temperature and atmospheric pressure that can be released on demand.
Institute scientists say that POWERPASTE remains safe even when an E-scooter is standing in the sun for hours at a time. Refilling with the material is also simple, with pilots just needing to replace an empty cartridge with a new one and fill another tank with normal water. One of the main components of POWERPASTE is magnesium, which is one of the most abundant elements on Earth and easily available.
Magnesium powder is combined with hydrogen to form magnesium hydride in a process that takes place at a temperature of 350 degrees Celsius and 5 to 6 times atmospheric pressure. The team adds an ester and metal salt to form the finished product. The paste is fed to the small vehicle’s propulsion system from a cartridge using a plunger with water added from an on-board tank, creating a reaction that generates hydrogen gas and an amount dynamically adjusted to the needs of the fuel cell.