Hydrogen is an excellent fuel due to its high energy density and the zero emission of greenhouse gases. In combination with oxygen from the air, hydrogen can be used to obtain energy, the only by-product being water. This characteristic makes it an excellent candidate to replace fossil fuels as a source of energy for cars and other means of transportation.
However, the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel has a number of drawbacks which have prevented the full implementation of the so-called hydrogen economy. The first of them is the fact that hydrogen is not readily found in the earth's crust and must be produced, in a process that is hardly ever sustainable. The second is the flammable nature of hydrogen gas and the need to transport it in compressed form, with all the dangers that this entails.
The invention described here overcomes these limitations by providing an efficient, sustainable and safe procedure for producing, storing and transporting hydrogen. The technology is based on the use of what are known as Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers (LOHC).
Researchers from three Spanish universities and from a Spanish research center have developed and patented a new procedure for the efficient production and the safe storage and transportation of hydrogen for use in fuel cells. The invention consists in a method of obtaining molecular hydrogen by means of catalytic dehydrogenation reactions. This method makes it possible to overcome the limitations of the systems currently employed for the sustainable and safe handling of hydrogen as an energy vector. The ability to obtain hydrogen at room temperature ensures its use in a large number of applications, particularly in the automotive and energy industry.
More particularly, it employs a combination of hydrosilanes and alcohols, which produce hydrogen using a catalyst immobilized in a carbon material. This novel procedure offers a number of advantages over currently existing technologies. On the one hand, it makes it possible to work at low temperatures, while, on the other, it is highly versatile due to the different silanes and alcohols available. Furthermore, it is a reversible system that allows for the reuse of both the products and the catalyst itself in successive cycles. Together, these advantages help to bring down the costs of obtaining and handling hydrogen. At the same time they also make transporting this fuel safer and, therefore, improve its applicability in non-stationary systems, such as cars and other types of vehicles.
This technology is aimed at the energy production industry, and more particularly at sectors operating with sources of renewable energy that are free of pollutant and greenhouse effect emissions. More specifically still, the invention can be applied in companies devoted to the production and commercialisation of solutions for the storage and transportation of hydrogen, as an energy vector, based on the use of Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers (LOHC). Likewise, the automotive industry would be a final user of this technology, owing to the fact that it is intended to cover the need to ensure the safe transportation and storage of hydrogen for use in vehicle fuel cells.
Researchers are seeking companies from the energy or automotive sector to reach license agreements or technical cooperation agreements for pre-industrial scaling and exploitation of the technology.