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Rocket fuel powers hydrogen cell development

By Colin Ricketts - 18 Mar 2011 14:50:0 GMT
Rocket fuel powers hydrogen cell development

A rocket fuel could power the growth of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles say American scientists.

Hydrazine has been used to propel rockets since the German's used it in the first rocket fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 163B, during World War II, but now Andrew Sutton of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico is using it for more peaceful purposes.

Sutton is using hydrazine to help regenerate ammonia borane, the substance used to store hydrogen for powering vehicles. However, to make ammonia borane a commercially viable proposition, it must be able to regenerate after the hydrogen has been released.

Sutton said: ''It definitely makes the regeneration easier. That's a significant advance.''

LANL has been working with Dow Chemical to try and make a commercial hydrogen storage method, but previous attempts using tin proved problematic because of the weight of the chemicals involved.

''That got me thinking about a lighter reducing agent,'' said Sutton.

Now, the new process is being thought of as an industrial process with regeneration carried out in centralised facilities rather than onboard vehicles.

The University of Oxford's Martin Jones, who has worked with the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy, said of the breakthrough: ''Other issues remain, but this certainly places it high on the list of materials that might, in time, find commercial applications.''