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MU Researchers to Study Hydrogen Storage for Use in Vehicles

Researchers were awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy

May 31, 2007

Story Contact:  Katharine Kostiuk, 573-882-3346,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia have been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to study low-pressure hydrogen storage. The grant is part of a DOE hydrogen fuel initiative that gave $11.2 million to 13 projects across the United States.

Peter Pfeifer, professor of physics in the College of Arts and Science and principal investigator in the project, will work with M. Frederick Hawthorne, professor of radiology, chemistry and physics and director of the MU International Institute for Nano and Molecular Medicine, and Carlos Wexler, associate professor of physics. The researchers plan to use an integrated theoretical, computational and experimental approach to develop and test hydrogen storage materials and will focus their research on monolithic carbon made from synthetic materials. The carbon will be crisscrossed by a network of controlled nanopores that have boron added to them to increase hydrogen binding energy.

The goal of this project is to increase the storage capacity of hydrogen for use in vehicles. This research builds on a previous project led by Pfeifer that developed corncob-based monolithic carbon briquettes for storage of natural gas in a low-pressure, flat tank for vehicles. Natural gas vehicles are expected to be a stepping stone between current gasoline-fueled vehicles and hydrogen-powered vehicles, projected by the DOE to be a commercially available option by 2020. Hawthorne's renowned expertise in boron-carbon chemistry will be a cornerstone of the hydrogen storage project.

Pfeifer, Hawthorne and Wexler believe they can create storage materials that meet the DOE's 2010 targets for vehicular hydrogen storage, which are 60 grams of hydrogen per kilogram tank.

“I am very excited to be among the 13 proposals that were selected for funding by the DOE's Office of Basic Energy Sciences, out of 229 invited proposals,” Pfeifer said.

The DOE grants went to universities and national laboratories in 10 states and Washington, DC. They are part of a department-wide, comprehensive portfolio of basic and applied research, technology development and demonstration projects aimed at advancing President Bush's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. The DOE selected the projects through a merit-review, competitive solicitation process.

Both the National Academy of Sciences and the DOE have identified hydrogen storage as a key in the successful implementation of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. According to the DOE Web site, use of hydrogen as a vehicle fuel could reduce pollution and dependence on foreign oil. Also according to the DOE, hydrogen has the highest energy content per unit of weight of any known fuel and can be produced from abundant domestic energy resources; types of hydrogen use produce near-zero emissions of greenhouse gases.