The Future of Hydrogen Fuel

TAMPA (2009-07-16) -

It's a promising weekend for hydrogen fuel enthusiasts. The annual HHO Games and Expo are scheduled Friday through Sunday at the USF St. Petersburg campus. From feathers to polymers, there have been some recent breakthroughs in hydrogen fuel technology.

Hydrogen is often touted as "the energy of the future." But storing hydrogen has never been easy. That's because it's the lightest element and very difficult to compress.

Scientists have long experimented with nanotubes to solve the storage problem. Nanotubes are tiny, hollow cylinders of carbon with large surface area that gas molecules can cling to.

It costs thousands of dollars to manufacture synthetic tubes for a hydrogen car fuel tank. But, University of Delaware professor of engineering, Richard Wool, has a cheaper alternative -- making nanotubes out of carbonized chicken feathers.

Wool's chicken feather nanotubes reduce the cost of a hydrogen tank to a couple hundred dollars.

University of South Florida scientists are making some innovations of their own. Engineering professor Sesha Srinivasan and researcher Michael Neimann have had success using polymers as storage material.

Srinivasan says they have applied for a patent and hopes to interest the auto industry.

Neiman, his student, sees a future for hydrogen vehicles, though he acknowledges there are hurdles. Srinivasan is more optimistic and thinks hydrogen cars will be commercially available in the next few years.

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