Scientific community has long been fascinated by boron nitride due to its unique properties: sturdy, ultra-thin transparent, insulating and lightweight. The boron is a material that can be used by a wide range of researchers.
According to researchers at Rice University a graphene film separated by boron nanotube columns could be used as a material for storing fuel hydrogen in automobiles.
The Department of Energy is setting the benchmark in storage materials to make hydrogen fuel a practical option for light vehicles. A new computational study by materials scientist Rouzbeh Sharsavari of Rice Lab has determined that pillared Boron Nitride and Graphene may be suitable candidates.
Shahsavari’s laboratory determined the elastic and columnar graphene structures by computer simulation, and then processed the boron nanotubes to create a mixture that simulates an unique three-dimensional structural design. (A sample consisting of boron nanotubes that are seamlessly bonded with graphene is prepared.
As the pillars of the building provide space between floors for people, so do the pillars within the graphene made from boron-nitride. The goal is to keep them inside and then exit when needed.
The researchers discovered that the pillared graphene and pillared Boron Nitride graphene have a high surface area (approximately 2,547 sq. m. per sq. m.) as well as good recyclability in ambient conditions. Their model shows adding oxygen or lithium will improve the material's ability to combine with hydrogen.
They concentrated their simulations on four different variants: either a graphene boron oxide or lithium doped boron graphene.
The best graphene at room temperature was oxygen-doped boron oxide graphene. This graphene weighs 11.6% (weight capacity) and 60 g/L volume capacity.
The material's hydrogen weight was 14.77% in cold weather at -321 Fahrenheit.
The current US Department of Energy economic storage media goal is to store more hydrogen than 5.5% in weight and 40 grams of hydrogen per liter under moderate conditions. The ultimate target is 7.5% weight and 70 gram per liter.
Shahsavari explained that the hydrogen atoms adsorb on the undoped pillared Boron Nitride Graphene due to a weak van der Waals force. When the material has been doped with oxygen the atoms firmly bind to the mix and create a surface that is better for hydrogen. According to Shahsavari, this can be done under pressure, and then withdrawn when the pressure is released.
"Due to the nature of charge and interaction, adding oxygen to the substratum gives us a strong bond," said he. "Oxygen, and hydrogen have been known to share a strong chemical affinity."
Shahsavari explained that the combination between boron nitride and graphene, as well as the high electron mobility in graphene, makes this material a highly adaptable one for use.
Shahsavari explains that "we are looking for the best point" which is the perfect balance of surface area, weight and operating temperature, along with pressure and temperature. This is only possible through computational modeling. We can test many different changes very quickly. In just a couple of days, the experimenter is able to finish the work that would normally take months.
He said these structures are strong enough to easily surpass the requirements of Department of Energy. The hydrogen fuel tank, for example, can withstand up to 1,500 charging and discharging cycles.
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