April 2, 2009

New car hydrogen storage system created

U.S. scientists say they've created a hydrogen storage system that allows a car's fuel tank to be filled within five minutes for a 300-mile driving range.

Purdue University researchers said their system uses metal hydride powder to absorb hydrogen gas. The researchers have created a heat exchanger that circulates coolant through tubes and uses fins to remove heat generated as the hydrogen is absorbed by the powder.

Professor Issam Mudawar, who led the project that was funded by the General Motors Corp., said the heat exchanger is critical because the system stops absorbing hydrogen if it overheats.

The hydride produces an enormous amount of heat, Mudawar said. "It would take a minimum of 40 minutes to fill the tank without cooling, and that would be entirely impractical.

The idea is to have a system that fills the tank and, at the same time, uses accessory connectors that supply coolant to extract the heat, said Mudawar. This presented an engineering challenge because we had to figure out how to fill the fuel vessel with hydrogen quickly, while also removing the heat efficiently. The problem is, nobody had ever designed this type of heat exchanger before. It's a whole new animal that we designed from scratch.

The scientists have applied for three provisional patents related to the technology.