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Nanostructured Polymeric Materials for Hydrogen Storage

Scott Kirklin, a co-op student researcher, closely examines a polymer sample before characterizing its surface structure.
Three-dimensional model of a nanostructured polymeric material for hydrogen storage
Three-dimensional model of a nanostructured polymeric material for hydrogen storage, developed by the Argonne/University of Chicago team.

On-board hydrogen storage is critical to the development of future high energy efficiency transportation technologies, such as hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles.

To be practical, the 2015 performance targets of the hydrogen storage system set by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) include a gravimetric capacity of at least 0.055 kg H2/kg-system and a volumetric capacity of 0.04 kg H2/L-system at ambient temperature. Furthermore, the adsorbent cost must be less than $2/kWh. No current technology meets these goals.

Argonne's Research

At Argonne National Laboratory, we are developing nanostructured polymeric materials as non-dissociative hydrogen adsorbents for the transportation application. The successful outcome of this research could lead to a low-cost, high-capacity hydrogen storage material that can be mass-produced economically within the existing U.S. industrial infrastructure.

Argonne-University of Chicago Collaboration

An Argonne-University of Chicago team is also a member of DOE's H2 Sorption Center of Excellence (CoE). The objective of the team is to develop nanostructured porous polymers as a new class of physisorption-based hydrogen storage materials.

Since the inception of the project, the team has focused on improving the H2 uptake capacity of the nanostructured polymeric materials (NPM) and the NPM’s heat of adsorption by controlled variations in the materials’ specific surface area (SSA), porosity, and the framework-adsorbate interactions using rational design and synthesis at the molecular level, guided by computational modeling and advanced characterization. In 2009, the team synthesized and characterized three types of NPMs with over 50 different structures. These polymers exhibit specific surface areas of up to about 1,900 m2/g and tunable pore sizes of 0.6 to 0.9 nm (6 to 9Å). The team has also achieved an excess H2 uptake of 5.1 wt% at 77 K (liquid nitrogen temperature) and 40 bar pressure, a nearly 150% improvement over 2008 results. In parallel with the materials development activity, the team has carried out computational simulations and high-pressure 1H NMR studies in collaboration with researchers at the University of North Carolina to understand better the polymer-hydrogen interactions. In continuing work, the team will improve H2-sorbent interaction through pore size control and optimization. The team will also explore new syntehsis methods for metal-containing polymers to further enhance the NPM’s heat of hydrogen adsorption for increased uptake capacity at ambient temperatures.


Argonne's hydrogen storage material research is funded by DOE's Office of Fuel Cell Technologies with participation from the University of Chicago as a subcontractor.


Di-Jia Liu

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