On-board storage of hydrogen is one of the key challenges for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. A team of researchers at Alfred University has been working on a method for the storage and release of hydrogen in pressurized glass microspheres. Their discovery was that the release can be triggered simply by the use of light.
A scanning electron microscopy image (300X, right) shows the size of the microspheres.
From the Center for Environmental and Energy Research at Alfred University:
It has been known for decades that hydrogen can be safely stored in hollow glass microspheres. The amount of hydrogen in each individual microsphere is very small, preventing the possibility of explosions by improper handling or during accidents. Development of a commercial process has heretofore been prevented by the lack of an easy method for removing the hydrogen from the microspheres as needed for fuel. Shelby and Rapp [the researchers] have potentially solved this problem through photo-enhanced diffusion.MSNBC coverage here. A poster from May 2003 on the work is here.
Shelby and Rapps research shows that doping glasses with certain additives results in a glass that will almost instantaneously change the rate of hydrogen diffusion. They have shown that the release of hydrogen from glass can be controlled by simply turning a light on and off. The response of the glass is almost instantaneous. This discovery may lead to the widespread use of hollow glass microspheres for the storage and transport of hydrogen.