Year/Course: 2012-2013, Easter 2013
Project type: Innovation, Technology

Contact: Enass Abo-Hamed & Dr. Roger Coulston, Chemistry
Mentor: John Hunter

The hydrogen economy has huge potential but has so far not yet reached reality. Visions of the future range from large-scale hydrogen power stations to tiny fuel cells powering mobile electronic devices, to mid-size hydrogen engines for vehicles.

The main problem and limitation of the hydrogen economy is one of energy transport – hydrogen fuel is difficult, dangerous and costly to transport, even when compared to hydrocarbon-based fuels. However, it has some major advantages – in particular it is a clean energy source that is non-polluting and can be produced from widely-available resources.

The research team at the Chemistry Department have developed metal nanoparticles specifically to produce hydrogen gas in a safe and controllable way from ammonia borane. Ammonia borane is a solid material that is non-combustable (so is compact and safe to transport) and rich in hydrogen. The system of ammonia borane and metal nanoparticles provides a mobile and controllable hydrogen reactor, producing hydrogen gas on demand, wherever and whenever it is needed.

The question for the i-Team is how can mobile and portable hydrogen reactors be used, and who might need them? They can provide remote sources of power, or perhaps produce hydrogen for other uses too, potentially impacting a wide range of architectural, engineering and chemical engineering projects.