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September 2008

Hot Topic: Hydrogen Storage

Powering vehicles with hydrogen instead of gasoline could reduce our reliance on dwindling fossil fuels. For this to happen, manufacturers need a material that can safely store and release hydrogen to power a fuel cell. So, scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory designed a new method of making such a material, ammonia borane. Energy & Environmental Science named the resulting article a hot paper in September 2008.

Their method begins with the formation of ammonium borohydride, NH4BH4 from the combination of borohydride and ammonium salts in liquid ammonia. Under the right conditions the borohydride can be induced to decompose to yield ammonia borane, which is 19 weight percent hydrogen.

The simple one-pot strategy provides a greater than 90% isolated yield. Also, the reaction results in ammonia borane with 99% purity, bringing us closer to meeting the needs for on-board hydrogen storage.

Acknowledgments: David J. Heldebrant, Abhi Karkamkar, John C. Linehan, and Tom Autrey of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory wrote the article. The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science's Office of Basic Energy Sciences funded the research.

Reference: Heldebrant DJ, A Karkamkar, JC Linehan, and T Autrey. 2008. "Synthesis of ammonia borane for hydrogen storage applications." Energy & Environmental Science 1, 156-160, DOI: 10.1039/b808865a.

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