Thanks to boron nitride, a revolution in hydrogen powder in the future

Australian scientists claim to have made a discovery that paves the way for a revolution in the production and storage of hydrogen powder that, if produced using carbon-free energy, will be the fuel of the future and one of the building blocks of global energy needed. transition.

Mechano-chemical, the process is presented in a press release published by Deakin University, Australia, on which the team is based. “The discovery is so important – and such a difference with generally accepted knowledge of gas separation and storage – that the chief scientist, Dr. Srikanth Mateti, explained that he had to repeat his experiment twenty to thirty times before he was able to believe what he saw.”Explains the text.

Although they are now well mastered, hydrogen conversion and storage remain sensitive areas from a security point of view. In the event of a leak, the gas is also not without risks – significant – to the environment.

The solution to these inconveniences can be boron nitride, which is a resistant and thermally stable chemical compound, which is fairly common and known because it is already widely used, whether in the cosmetic industry, in the paint industry or in the metal processing industry.

In powder form, boron nitride has interesting adsorption capabilities, as an interesting geometry demonstrates. These are the ones that have been put to good use by researchers in a so-called “mechanical-chemical” process using a “ball mill,” a very simple rotating chamber where metal balls help separate gases.

By adding boron nitride to a ball mill and spinning it at high speed, Australian scientists realized that under certain certain conditions, the chemical compound could absorb hydrogen. Thus, this makes it possible to store the gas in the form of a powder, which can then be transported simply at room temperature and without much danger.

Finally, it is sufficient to heat the powder in an empty chamber to extract the hydrogen again in the form of gas – the boron nitride can be reused in a new cycle. So we are far from the usual and complex needs of hydrogen production, storage and transportation. Yet the operation could have a rapid and significant impact on the entire sector.

Eureka, Eureka, Eureka

but that is not all. This eureka is multifaceted, each of them holds great hopes. Even before providing potential fuels that are easy to produce, transport and safely store for our future rolling or flying vehicles, the process presented by Srikanth Mateti and his team could have major implications for the processes used in oil refineries. .

As New Atlas points out, many of today’s refineries use a method called “cryogenic distillation” to extract useful elements from crude oil. However, according to the Deakin University team, a process used for hydrogen which is based on boron nitride and mechanical chemistry could replace cryogenic distillation in oil refineries.

In their small experiments, they thus demonstrated that if the process required time, the energy savings could be around 90%, all at a much lower cost.

These are huge differences which, if they could be used on an industrial scale, could have important consequences for industry: according to a study published in 2016, cryogenic distillation and chemical separation of petroleum elements account for between 10% and 15% of total energy consumption.

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