Solving the problem of how to store energy is essential for a future run on renewables.
That’s why promising materials for hydrogen fuel cells and high capacity, long-lived batteries are being explored at the atomic level by the Australian Synchrotron.
Australian Synchrotron scientist Dr Qinfen Gu is investigating a new class of hydrogen storage materials being developed by scientists at the University of Wollongong and their international collaborators.Qinfen is using the powerful X-rays of the synchrotron to observe and analyse the structure of these materials.
The scientists can see at the atomic level how the hydrogen is stored and then design and test materials to increase their storage capacity.Although years away from commercial use, a number of these materials have a shown a good capacity for releasing pure hydrogen—an important milestone in developing the next generation of hydrogen car.
Another energy project at the Australian Synchrotron is looking at lithium-ion batteries to see if there’s a way to make a material that would allow many more “recharges” in a battery’s lifetime.
Current lithium batteries lose capacity during repeated cycles of charging—something that needs to be solved if they are to be used in electric vehicles or as storage for renewable energy systems.
Dr Neeraj Sharma from ANSTO and Dr Rosalind Gummow from James Cook University have already used the synchrotron to show how the crystal structure of their material changes as lithium ions move during charging and use.
They are aiming to understand this process to one day allow lithium-ion technology to be used widely, not only in laptops and phones but also for cars and renewable energy storage.
Photo: QUINFEN GU IS INVESTIGATING A NEW CLASS OF HYDROGEN STORAGE MATERIALS.