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UTSA, SwRI collaborate to make more efficient storage materials for hydrogen

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Southwest Research Institute are collaborating to improve storage materials for hydrogen fuels with a hybrid metal-carbon microstructure that combines both chemical and physical hydrogen storage mechanisms.

The project is supported by a $125,000-grant from the Connecting through Research Partnerships (Connect) Program and will be led by Josh Mangum of SwRI’s Mechanical Engineering Division, UTSA Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Kathryn Mayer and UTSA Assistant Professor of Chemistry Fang Xu.


UTSA and Southwest Research Institute will create high surface area carbon microstructure particles that can chemically absorb hydrogen.

SwRI is leading several multidisciplinary efforts evaluating hydrogen as a potential fuel for automobiles, power generation and even as a replacement for natural gas in homes.

Current methods of transporting and storing hydrogen involve compressing and liquifying hydrogen gas for transport and storage in cryogenic and high-pressure fuel tanks, which is an expensive process. Because hydrogen is highly flammable, transporting these tanks is inherently dangerous.

To address these challenges, SwRI and UTSA will create high surface area carbon (HiSAC) microstructure particles that can physically and chemically absorb the hydrogen, allowing it to be transported safely and cost-effectively.

Instead of a highly pressurized tank, we plan to store hydrogen in a low-cost powder material. The hydrogen will be chemically and physically absorbed and desorbed. One of our project goals is evaluating how much hydrogen can be stored in the powder since this will dictate the overall storage cost.

—Josh Mangum

The researchers will fabricate the HiSAC microstructures using the SwRI-developed High Power Impulse Plasma Source (HiPIPS) technology, which efficiently generates coatings using high-density, high-flux plasmas at low temperatures and atmospheric pressures.

UTSA will perform the analytical characterization of the microparticle structures. Mayer’s research team will perform a detailed structural characterization of the materials using state-of-the-art instrumentation in the Kleberg Advanced Microscopy Center. Xu’s team will modify HiSAC by Mg deposition and test the materials’ hydrogen storage capacity using a customized unit.

Previous research has demonstrated HSAC microstructures at high temperatures and low pressures, but HiPIPS allows us to form these materials at room temperature in a simple, scalable process. This process uses less energy than it takes to power an incandescent light bulb.

—Josh Mangum

SwRI’s Executive Office and UTSA’s Office of the Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Knowledge Enterprise sponsor the Connect program, which offers grant opportunities to enhance greater scientific collaboration between the two institutions.


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