ENERGY: Metal hydrites to store hydrogen

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Thu Jan 24 2002 - 11:56:18 MST

Found this interesting piece on a research project in India to use rare
earth hydrites to store hydrogen densely at room temperature in
transportation applications:

Novel way to store hydrogen;Ěš

EW DELHI: Indian scientists have come up with a potentially
revolutionary fuel technology packing hydrogen at room temperature in
cubes which can be recharged.

Last week, researchers from a multi-disciplinary team of Benaras Hindu
University ran a hydrogen-powered Hero Honda motorcycle for hours before
senior executives from the Indian Oil Corporation and Oil and Natural
Gas Corporation. They also ran a portable genset and a cooking range on
their cutting-edge technology.

Sounds like a lot of gas? Or another case of herbal petrol? Not at
all. I put 30 years of my reputation at stake when I recommended this
technology to the Planning Commission, says former National Physical
Laboratory director A R Verma.

And Verma is not alone. So excited are the energy giants IOC and ONGC
that they have expressed a willingness to fund the BHU team. We are
convinced of the viability of the technology and will support further
research, said IOCs research and development director A K Bhatnagar,
after the January 9 demonstration at his Faridabad R&D centre.

The star attraction at the demonstration was a rectangular box fitted
under the seat of the motorbike. This packed enough fuel for the 100 cc
bike to run a 50-km stretch. A recharge takes six minutes.

The BHU technology traps the gas in molecular form in hydrites  a
mixture of powdered rare earth metals found in abundance in Orissa,
Kerala and Assam.

Between minus 12 and 80 degree Centigrade, the hydrites absorb hydrogen,
only to release an adequate stream beyond a certain temperature. The
fuel box has been calibrated to release the hydrogen at the temperature
generated by the exhaust.

And enough gas remains in the fuel line to kick the engine into life. In
case of a crash, the powder just withers, without releasing a burst of
fuel to explode, as is the case in conventionally fuelled vehicles.

This is the first time in the world that two-wheelers are being run on
hydrogen, said O N Srivastava, who heads the 10-year-old BHU research
programme. His team had been running six motorcycles using these
portable hydrogen boxes for some months now.

The fuel box weighs 17 kg, or twice that of a tank with 10 litres of
petrol. We are trying to halve it and increase the range to 100-150
km, said Srivastava. He said the engine had been modified but declined
to give details. A number of overseas organisations are after us, he
said. The team has patented some of the technology in India and is
moving for a global patent.

So far, global research on hydrogen has centred around fuel cell
technology. Broadly, this means using hydrogen to produce electricity
through a process that is the opposite of electrolysis.

This is unviable in the Indian context. For example, a hydrogen car
built by Chrysler would cost around Rs 3 crore here. Besides, the
technology is elaborate, suitable for defence and space applications,
Srivastava said.

The options of storing and using hydrogen so far have been either as
gas, which is dangerous, or liquid, which is expensive, Verma said. Both
need cryogenic technology.

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