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 standard in storage materials to make hydrogen fuel a viable 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 boron nanotubes bonded seamlessly to 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 square meter), 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.
The researchers focused their simulations around four different variants, including a graphene pillared with boron or lithium doped boron or nitride.
The best graphene at room temperature was oxygen-doped boron oxide skeletons.
The material's hydrogen weight was 14.77% in cold temperatures below -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 boron-nitride graphene without oxygen doping 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 According to Shahsavari, this can be done under pressure, and then withdrawn when the pressure is released.
He explained that adding oxygen to the substrate would create a strong bond due to the nature of charge and interaction. "Oxygen, and hydrogen have been known to share a strong chemical affinity."
Shahsavari explained that boron nitride's polarization properties combined with graphene, and the electron-mobility of graphene make this material highly adaptable for applications.
Shahsavari explains that "we are looking for the best point" which describes ideal conditions such as the balance of surface area, weight and material as well as the operating temperature and pressure. "This is only possible through computational modeling as we can test a lot of 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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