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Researchers design carbon nanotube structures with good prospects for hydrogen storage

Researchers at the Technische Universität Dresden have designed packing of carbon nanotubes with three and four different orientations of tube axes that are stable and can store hydrogen with uptake amounts up to 19.0 wt% at 77 K (-196 °C)) and 5.5 wt% at 300 K (27 °C)), approaching the US Department of Energy target of 6 wt% by 2015.

One of the carbon nanotube structures. Credit: Assfour et al. Click to enlarge.

Inspired by natural sponges, the team designed a computer model that placed carbon nanotubes in the hole positions of a theoretical sponge network. “Putting cylinders next to each other is a way of packing them. But there is another way—to put them so they cross over each other, like the holes in a sponge. Using modelling we found how many arrangements the nanotubes could be arranged in to fit this criteria,” Stefano Leoni told Chemistry World.

The carbon nanotubes are arranged in parallel, but with none of them intersecting. Each nanotube is in contact with others, but not all the way along the edge of the nanotube. The next step will be to make the structures experimentally.


  • Assfour, B., Leoni, S., Seifert, G. and Baburin, I. A. (2011) Packings of Carbon Nanotubes—New Materials for Hydrogen Storage. Advanced Materials doi: 10.1002/adma.201003669



So, what are the steps that have to occur for this to be of use?
1. Verify experimentally that at ambient temperatures 5% H2 storage by weight is achievable without high pressure.
2. Verify experimentally that refill times are less than 10 minutes and withdrawal can occur at a flow rate sufficient to operate a vehicle under sustained high RPMs.
3. Get the manufacturing cost of carbon nanotubes down to less than the cost of high-pressure composite tanks of similar storage capacity, weight and volume.
4. The well known obstacles to H2 production, distribution, and leakage during storage have to be overcome...first and foremost being that H2 is not a source of energy but a medium for storing energy that has heretofore suffered so many parasitic losses in the combined state changes that it is far less efficient from well to wheels than using batteries.

Anybody know how much it costs to make a kilogram of carbon nanotubes?

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