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Chemists discover the compounds that make up gold, silver and copper could be used to store hydrogen

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Chemists have discovered that compounds based on precious metals gold, silver and copper and hydrogen could be used to store the gas and fuel vehicles.

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin’s School of Chemistry found that these ‘metal hydride’ complexes are adept at storing hydrogen.

Given that it’s a volatile element, particularly at room temperature, hydrogen needs to be stored as a compressed gas in a high-pressure tank, or as a liquid at – 253 degrees Celsius, according to the ​University of Central Florida. 

Chemists have discovered that compounds based on precious metals gold, silver and copper and hydrogen could be used to store the gas and fuel vehicles

Chemists have discovered that compounds based on precious metals gold, silver and copper and hydrogen could be used to store the gas and fuel vehicles

These 'metal hydride' complexes are adept at storing hydrogen, given that it's a volatile element, particularly at room temperature

These ‘metal hydride’ complexes are adept at storing hydrogen, given that it’s a volatile element, particularly at room temperature

Hydrogen needs to be stored as a compressed gas in a high-pressure tank, or as a liquid at -253 degrees Celsius

Hydrogen needs to be stored as a compressed gas in a high-pressure tank, or as a liquid at -253 degrees Celsius

‘Our contribution here—made via quantum chemistry techniques—has been to show that gold, silver and copper hydride complexes are very likely to effectively retain hydrogen in a stable manner,’ the study’s lead author, Dr. Cristina Trujillo, said in a statement.

‘We hope that this work will have multiple applications in time to come.’ 

A number of companies have tried to make hydrogen work as a fuel, given its abundance.

'Gold, silver and copper hydride complexes are very likely to effectively retain hydrogen in a stable manner,' the study's lead author, Dr. Cristina Trujillo, said

‘Gold, silver and copper hydride complexes are very likely to effectively retain hydrogen in a stable manner,’ the study’s lead author, Dr. Cristina Trujillo, said

In February, the idea of blue hydrogen – made from hydrogen produced from natural gas and carbon capture and storage – started to take off given its possibilities for more miles than a traditional electric vehicle. 

However, some have pushed back at the notion, including researchers at Cornell University, who said blue hydrogen could be more environmentally detrimental than gas or coal. 

Others have noted the fact that pure hydrogen is cheap, as little as 90 pence or around $1 per gallon. 

Given the fact it does not emit carbon dioxide, hydrogen could be a way for countries around the world to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels. 

‘For decades now many research groups across the world have put their efforts into this issue,’ Trujillo added.

‘One of the most studied alternatives has been hydrogen as a clean and CO2-free energy source, but it presents multiple problems due to its reactivity, and low density and stability.

In 2020, the U.S. consumed about 18.2 million barrels of oil per day, coming in at a total of 6.66 billion for the year, according to the Energy Information Administration. 

Though that was the lowest amount consumed since 1995 – largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency notes – it still contributed to high greenhouse gas emissions and record temperatures. 

Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said July was the hottest month in recorded history.

It had a combined land and ocean-surface temperature that was 1.67F (0.93C) above the 20th-century average of 60.4F (15.8C), the hottest since record keeping started 142 years ago.

According to the Rhodium Group, the U.S. saw a 10.3 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 and 21 percent below 2005 levels, what the Paris Climate Agreement is based on.

However, the group expects that greenhouse gas emissions will rise in 2021, making it imperative that alternative fuels, such as hydrogen are explored. 

‘Among the greatest challenges facing humanity is the growing need to stop global warming and find more efficient and cleaner ways to produce energy,’ Trujillo added.

‘As everybody already knows the current production system and excessive use of fossil fuels is releasing much more CO2 into the atmosphere than is being absorbed naturally, which makes the creation of greener and more environmentally friendly alternatives a global priority.’

The research has been published in the scientific journal Chemistry Open. 

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