New storage system design brings hydrogen cars closer to reality

April 3rd, 2009 - 1:14 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, April 3 (ANI): Researchers at Purdue University, US, have developed a critical part of a hydrogen storage system for cars that makes it possible to fill up a vehicle’s fuel tank within five minutes with enough hydrogen to drive 300 miles.

The research, funded by General Motors Corp. and directed by GM researchers Darsh Kumar, Michael Herrmann and Abbas Nazri, is based at the Hydrogen Systems Laboratory at Purdue’s Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories.

The system uses a fine powder called metal hydride to absorb hydrogen gas.

The researchers have created the system’s heat exchanger, which circulates coolant through tubes and uses fins to remove heat generated as the hydrogen is absorbed by the powder.

The heat exchanger is critical because the system stops absorbing hydrogen effectively if it overheats, according to Issam Mudawar, a professor of mechanical engineering, who is leading the research.

Researchers envision a system that would enable motorists to fill their car with hydrogen within a few minutes.

The hydrogen would then be used to power a fuel cell to generate electricity to drive an electric motor.

“The idea is to have a system that fills the tank and at the same time uses accessory connectors that supply coolant to extract the heat,” said Mudawar.

“This presented an engineering challenge because we had to figure out how to fill the fuel vessel with hydrogen quickly while also removing the heat efficiently,” he explained.

The metal hydride is contained in compartments inside the storage “pressure vessel.” Hydrogen gas is pumped into the vessel at high pressure and absorbed by the powder.

According to Mudawar, “This process is reversible, meaning the hydrogen gas may be released from the metal hydride by decreasing the pressure in the storage vessel.”

“The heat exchanger is fitted inside the hydrogen storage pressure vessel. Due to space constraints, it is essential that the heat exchanger occupy the least volume to maximize room for hydrogen storage,” he added.

The heat exchanger, which is made mostly of aluminum, contains a network of thin fins that provide an efficient cooling path between the metal hydride and the coolant.

“This milestone paves the way for practical on-board hydrogen storage systems that can be charged multiple times in much the same way a gasoline tank is charged today,” said Kumar.

“As newer and better metal hydrides are developed by research teams worldwide, the heat exchanger design will provide a ready solution for the automobile industry,” he added. (ANI)

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