FILLING up at the pumps with hydrogen instead of petrol has moved a step closer to reality, with the launch of a new company that holds the technology to make it happen.
Cella Energy is a new spin-out company from the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council – Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. It is developing a novel technology that allows hydrogen to be stored in a cheap and practical way, making it suitable for use as a carbon-free alternative to petrol.
Hydrogen, which produces pure water when burned, is considered an ideal solution to cutting carbon emissions from petrol, which are estimated to cause 25% of all carbon release.
So far attempts to store it have not been consumer friendly. But Cella Energy believes it has the answer.
Working with the London Centre for Nanotechnology at University College London, and the University of Oxford, scientists from STFC’s ISIS neutron source have developed a way of making microfibres 30 times smaller than a human hair.
These form a tissue-like material that is safe to handle in air. The new material contains as much hydrogen for a given weight as the tanks used to store hydrogen, and can also be made in the form of micro beads which can be used again and again.
It could be used to fill up tanks in cars, aircraft and other vehicles in a similar way to current fuels, but, without producing carbon emissions.
Professor Stephen Bennington, lead scientist on the project for STFC, said: “Our new hydrogen storage materials offer real potential for running cars and other vehicles that currently use hydrocarbons on hydrogen, with little extra cost and no extra inconvenience.”
So, when might this breakthrough hit the streets? Three years or so is the best guess.