Claim: Hydrogen powered cars for the masses one step closer to reality

From the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA – LOS ANGELES and the “flux capacitor” department.

Hydrogen cars for the masses one step closer to reality, thanks to UCLA invention

2-in-1 device also uses supercapacitor to store energy that could power computers and smartphones

UCLA researchers have designed a device that can use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be used to power electronic devices, and to create hydrogen fuel for eco-friendly cars.

The device could make hydrogen cars affordable for many more consumers because it produces hydrogen using nickel, iron and cobalt — elements that are much more abundant and less expensive than the platinum and other precious metals that are currently used to produce hydrogen fuel.

“Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles: It is the cleanest fuel known, it’s cheap and it puts no pollutants into the air — just water,” said Richard Kaner, the study’s senior author and a UCLA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and of materials science and engineering. “And this could dramatically lower the cost of hydrogen cars.”

The technology, described in a paper in the journal Energy Storage Materials, could be especially useful in rural areas, or to military units serving in remote locations.

“People need fuel to run their vehicles and electricity to run their devices,” Kaner said. “Now you can make both electricity and fuel with a single device.”

It could also be part of a solution for large cities that need ways to store surplus electricity from their electrical grids.

“If you could convert electricity to hydrogen, you could store it indefinitely,” said Kaner, who also is a member of UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute.

Traditional hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors have two electrodes: one positive and one negative. The device developed at UCLA has a third electrode that acts as both a supercapacitor, which stores energy, and as a device for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, a process called water electrolysis. All three electrodes connect to a single solar cell that serves as the device’s power source, and the electrical energy harvested by the solar cell can be stored in one of two ways: electrochemically in the supercapacitor or chemically as hydrogen.

The device also is a step forward because it produces hydrogen fuel in an environmentally friendly way. Currently, about 95 percent of hydrogen production worldwide comes from converting fossil fuels such as natural gas into hydrogen — a process that releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the air, said Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the research.

“Hydrogen energy is not ‘green’ unless it is produced from renewable sources,” El-Kady said. He added that using solar cells and abundantly available elements to split water into hydrogen and oxygen has enormous potential for reducing the cost of hydrogen production and that the approach could eventually replace the current method, which relies on fossil fuels.

Combining a supercapacitor and the water-splitting technology into a single unit, Kaner said, is an advance similar to the first time a phone, web browser and camera were combined on a smartphone. The new technology may eventually lead to new applications that even the researchers haven’t considered yet, Kaner said.

The researchers designed the electrodes at the nanoscale — thousands of times thinner than the thickness of a human hair — to ensure the greatest surface area would be exposed to water, which increases the amount of hydrogen the device can produce and also stores more charge in the supercapacitor. Although the device the researchers made would fit in the palm of your hand, Kaner said it would be possible to make larger versions because the components are inexpensive.

“For hydrogen cars to be widely used, there remains a need for a technology that safely stores large quantities of hydrogen at normal pressure and temperature, instead of the pressurized cylinders that are currently in use,” said Mir Mousavi, a co-author of the paper and a professor of chemistry at Iran’s Tarbiat Modares University.


204 thoughts on “Claim: Hydrogen powered cars for the masses one step closer to reality

  1. The Rub: “there remains a need for a technology that safely stores large quantities of hydrogen at normal pressure and temperature,”

    Hydrogen gas is, bluntly, explosive under normal atmospheric conditions (adequate oxygen). The key is “safely store large quantities”……we are not anywhere near that goal. The only truly safe storage is as water, splitting on the fly.

    • You could store large quantities of H2 at normal pressure and temperature in very large thin bags. You could even use those bags to lift stuff and people from place to place! Oh, wait!

      • When we were kids, my older brother did this with methane (natural gas from our water heater connection). He flew the 8 foot balloon (made from dry cleaner suit bags with edges melted together with my mother’s clothes iron) up to 300 feet — unfortunately in the landing path of the local small plane airport nearby. The FAA received urgent reports of someone flying weather balloons in the neighborhood. We denied all knowledge…but local police doubled drive-throughs all summer in an attempt to find the culprits.

        My son filled a self-made six-foot balloon with H2 (generated in champagne bottles with lye and aluminum foil), attached a 12 inch canon fuse to the side and flew it up into the night sky over our mid-Hudson Valley, NY neighborhood — the flash and boom brought every neighbor out into the street. We “ran out” too — to see what was going on.

      • My solution is to just go to Jupiter and harvest metallic hydrogen from the core.

        Cut it in blocks and selling it like ice blocks. Drop a new block into your gassification tank and go.

      • Several decades ago, after a wedding in sunny lovely Henderson, NV; we young adult cousins were left idle, after the newly wedded couple drove off in the sunshine.

        An abundance of helium balloons amongst the debris we were cleaning up ignited the devils in several idle minds.

        In the garage were some welding tanks. Which reminded one of the cousins when he used to blow up coke bottles, the glass kinds.
        He’d put some rocks into coke bottles, half fill with water, add a chunk of calcium carbide before screwing the lid on tight and tossing the bottle out into a lake.

        It wasn’t long before we untied several balloons, letting the helium go then filled the balloons with acetylene and a shot of oxygen.

        Tie on some cannon fuse, attach the acetylene balloon to several helium filled balloons, light the fuse and let go.

        When that ordinary balloon exploded, a couple hundred yards up, out over that suburb, it was an incredibly sharp and very loud explosion.
        Every door we could see in two directions opened at nearly the same time, leaving hundreds of people looking at each other.

        We good kids decided that cleaning up reception trash was a better use of our time.

    • Some 40 or so years ago a colleague at the University of Melbourne investigated the possibility of storing hydrogen in finely divided zinc, as ZnH. It is a low temperature (around ambient), low pressure reaction and cooling water from an internal combustion engine could be piped through the storage vessel to drive off hydrogen. He hadn’t completed the work when I left the University and I don’t know how he got on with the project. I have no knowledge of such a storage system and I presume his work was unsuccessful or no one picked it up. It would be safe because the stored hydrogen is not in a gaseous form but it is, of course, gaseous during storage and recovery.

      As an aside this was work which was supported under the general grants budget of the University. It was not tied to specific sponsorship. This system enabled us to involve ourselves in “blue sky” research. I regret the passing of those days.

      • Any system that take a volatile substance and makes it more stable for storage by some process must then reverse the stabilization process to use the fuel. The energy cost to revert the fuel for use will always be more than the stabilization process. It always takes more energy to undo something that you have done.

        • True. But in this case I think the thermochemistry is that the hydrogen was such that it would react with the finely divide zinc without the need of heat, and the recovery, by heating it up would use the waste heat from the IC engine.

      • I was going to respond in detail to this article but all I can say is there also remains the need to find new profitable hydrogen mines; those in Pixieland are running out.

      • Storing hydrogen as a “hydride” of a number of metals has had a lot of study in the context of hydrogen energy application. “First and second row” metal elements of the periodic table are the best.

        The hydrogen atom is small enough to leak out to some extent through the walls of any container for the pure gas. Also, a tank of gasoline has four times the energy density of the same tank filled with liquid hydrogen and gasoline actually contains 64% more hydrogen than an equal volume of liquid hydrogen.

        If a researcher was unaware of all the political content of fuels, and he was looking for best hydride, he would discover the carbon hydride C8H18 – iso-octane, essentially gasoline. We expressly ignore the “first row” element carbon, that makes by far and away the best hydride!!

      • +Many Gary Pearse.
        Hydrides of carbon are marvellous in so many respects for energy storage. Ease of handling due to being liquid is far more important than commonly realised. And harmless clean gaseous combustion products of water and carbon dioxide which can just be vented straight to the atmosphere, another huge plus.

        I think school curricula ought to include a mandatory course where pupils are required to go and live off-grid for a month or two in winter in a building where they have to carry their own coal in from outside (or chop the logs) and clean out the fireplace every day. Of course there are a few masochists who actually enjoy living in such a “romantic” way, but most people realise they wouldn’t want to return to those days.

    • In explosive atmosphere equipment testing we use hydrogen to give the worst case pressure to base a 1.5 times pressure test on. It gives a bigger bang than other gases.

      • The Hindenburg is just misunderstood. It was the burning fuel oil that made for the dramatic and deadly dripping flames; the hydrogen just went poof upwards.

      • What is to misunderstand?
        The thing blew up and burned to a cinder in a matter of seconds due to a stray spark of static.
        Anyone who wants my ticket on one of those rides is welcome to it.

      • As Robert points out below, the hydrogen in the Hindenburg escaped upwards from each bag as they burst and combusted in seconds with an invisible flame. Most of the flames visible are actually the skin of the bags themselves. They were coated in a thin layer of aluminium to keep the H2 from escaping. Not the best choice in hindsight – Al is the main fuel component in solid rocket motors.

      • Imagine the Hindenburg filled with gasoline. Would have killed most everyone on the ground. No one left to say “Oh, the inhumanity!”

    • And as an added bonus, a hydrogen flame is invisible. Be careful you don’t walk into an invisible fire.

    • I was going to respond in detail to this article but all I can say is there also remains the need to find new profitable hydrogen mines; those in Pixieland are running out.

      • Griff: All I see is a gypsy wagon selling tonic. All talk, no action. “Test stations” do not denote success. A lot of “tests” fail. But you “want to believe”, I know.

    • Ammonia.

      Air + water + electricity = ammonia.

      Easily stored, transported, and used.

      Hard to make at a small scale, though.

      • Yeah, and 10% sodium hypochlorite is sold at every swimming pool supply store in the world.
        Dare you to drive around with a tank of the pure stuff.

      • Gaseous Ammonia is explosive at about 15% mix in air which is why the building at work where it was used had 12 inch thick reinforced walls and blast vents in the roof.

        James Bull

    • Gasoline even more so, what’s your point? The problem with hydrogen is storage, as much from the problem of it escaping because it is such a tiny molecule as it would be dangerous. Mercedes had a entire website dedicated to comparing hydrogen with gasoline and diesel. The biggest issue with hydrogen as part of an energy storage system remains the Hindenburg Effect. Of course what you saw burning in the video was not hydrogen but the materials the dirigible was coated with and the fuel for its engines.

      • You can drop a lit cigarette into a bucket of gasoline and nothing will happen but the cigarette will go out.
        Gasoline is not explosive in liquid form at room temperature.
        It has to be aerosolized and mixed with oxygen in a certain ratio to become explosive.

    • The rub is that it is hard to make hydrogen gas energy dense. You cannot run a hydrogen-powered car from a huge balloon being dragged around with the car. Hydrogen is hard to contain under pressure, as it can even wheedle its way through iron, thus converting it to iron hydride which then fails violently. There are rumors of a metallic hydrogen sponges that can store hydrogen at relatively low pressure but getting the hydrogen gas to leave the sponge involves heating the hydrogen-laden sponge; it does not sound like a good idea. Nope, hydrogen is another pie-in-the-sky routine, designed to ask for more money as their current ideas are only partially baked and unusable.

    • “Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles.” Except that it is volumetrically inefficient, and if stored at ambient pressure and temperature, it is really volumetrically inefficient. Not so good for a car or light truck.

    • Which of course weighs 8lb/gallon if memory serves?
      As such, no savings yet again not to mention how much water would have to be “onboard” for this even to work as a concept?
      What about massive amounts of water vapor being released in congested traffic areas like Los Angeles.
      Has anyone considered those unintentional consequences? Naw…..

    • There is such a technology currently in use, and it is quite popular. It is based on the fact that a gallon of gasoline contains more hydrogen than a gallon of (liquid) hydrogen.

      • Horace, excellent point as I recall is C8-H18 is a great transportation fuel that is liquid at room temperature. And it has an octane number of 100 w/o ethanol. Best way to use hydrogen to get around.
        Of course I know that this is only one of other components in most gasoline today. We need to get low BTU ethanol out of our gasoline

    • How about ..enormous potential….replace fossil (carbon) fuels…make larger versions…fit in the palm of your hand…..and rival an accu-jerk (masturbation device)…..which is what this idea smacks of. I want to see the P&ID the process and instrumentation diagram, energy calculations, as well as the electrical schematics.

  2. What is this “safe” exhaust. Dihydrogen monoxide is the single largest greenhouse gas in the atmosphere!

  3. [UCLA researchers have designed a device that can use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy]
    They had me at ‘create energy’…

  4. The storage and use of hydrogen poses unique challenges due to its ease of leaking as a gaseous fuel, low-energy ignition, wide range of combustible fuel-air mixtures, buoyancy, and its ability to embrittle metals that must be accounted for to ensure safe operation.
    From Wikipedia
    Will not be nice to have a whole bunch of High Pressure Hydrogen on our treacherous highways.

    • “If you could convert electricity to hydrogen, you could store it indefinitely,” Begs question. Hydrogen will soak through stainless steel
      whole bunch of High Pressure Hydrogen
      Exactly. When Aubrey McClendon hit overpass at high speed in Nat gas car, it was a bomb

    • I have worked with hydrogen at cryogenic and ambient temperature up to 700 oC and atmospheric pressure up to 55 bar. Never experienced difficulties. In past hydrogen was stored at atmosperic/ambient conditions in a telescoping gasometer.

      • Reply to JJM Gommers Nov 20 1316.

        In that ‘telescoping gasometer’ three quarters of that gas was carbon monoxide. (But see below)

        C + O2 gives CO2. CO2 + 2C + H20 gives 3CO + H2. Actually pressure was slightly above atmospheric as this excess pressure was needed to hold up the mass of the gasometer – usually a fairly heavy steel containment vessel.

        But the size of the ‘gasholder’ (the correct term) meant small surface area for very large volume. Did not matter is some of the hydrogen permeated the steel and leaked out. They could still sell the carbon monoxide for cooking and lighting.

        If you want to use pure Oxygen in the process, the above is correct. Pure Oxygen is expensive. If you want to sell your flammable gas to households you can’t afford Oxygen, you just use air. So the output will contain plenty of Nitrogen. Rewrite equations as:

        C + O2 + 4N2 gives CO2 + 4N2. CO2+ 4N2 + 2C + H20 gives 3CO + H2 +4N2.

        So only one eighth of that town gas is Hydrogen, three eighths carbon monoxide and half is nitrogen.

  5. Not that I’m getting cynical in my old age, because I am, but this is another “we can get by on alternatives to fossil fuel energy and here’s proof.” Call me when it is easily available on the market at costs below fossil fuels on an energy density scale.

    • markl
      You missed ‘safe’, I think.
      Gordon’s quote from the Wonderful Wiki, which I can edit, above, refers, too.


      • Agree but Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have been out and testing with the public for years with no safety issues I’m aware of. Not a large volume but multiple manufacturers. I think they can contain the volatility concern easily ….. until one, or a whole fueling station, explodes.

  6. Nickel has been mentioned in this context before. I suspect all the “cheaper catalyst” ideas fail because they all rapidly corrode away. Atomic oxygen is a b*tch.

      • Not such a good idea: “normal” electrolyses has an energetic yield of about 80%, today’s fuel cells convert that back to power with a yield of about 50%, or an overall yield of around 40% PGP (power to gas to power).
        Batteries are more efficient with NiMH at over 90%, but far more expensive and huge volume/weight to energy ratio…

        Maybe this combined battery/electrolyses item will have a better yield, but let’s wait and see…

        • Much the same as what happens when a gasoline fuelled tank gets ruptured in a violent accident, I would imagine.

      •– all you want to know about fuel cell technology, resolving on-site electrical energy from NG or propane in modular construction. Heat generated is used in DHW or building heat applications. Major corporate clients purchase a complete turn-key package with equipment purchase or leasing, off-site monitoring and local maintenance. The list of clients would suggest the economics are very positive and the discharge gases miniscule comparably speaking with standard combustion. Originally restricted to the Left Coast installations they may be expanding East ward.

  7. Well, in it’s infinite wisdom, the UK has decreed we will all be driving electric cars by 2040 and the ICE will be consigned to history.

    If this turns out to be a viable technology, guess what?…….. The UK government has sold the public yet another pup, first diesel, now this.

    You would have thought they would have learned by now.

  8. I sure hope they’re right. I bought 300 shares of Ballard Power years back, saw them rise to about $150. Today they trade at $6.00. The hope back then was that fuel cells running on hydrogen would be the engine of the future. Up to now, they’re only used in niche applications such as for forklift trucks and a few city buses. Don’t hold your breath on any of these “miracle” cures for the alleged CO2 problem.

    • Don’ty feel too bad about your loss on Ballard Power. I’m still counting on my Wonderous Buggy Whip Corporation and Super Slide Rule, Inc. to make a big come back someday and make me rich.

  9. “Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles: It is the cleanest fuel known, it’s cheap and it puts no pollutants into the air — just water,” It was only relatively recently that CO2 was considered a pollutant, the Greens have made it plain, they do not like cars and personal freedom so how long before H2O vapour is considered a pollutant?

      • Just imagine Winnipeg in the middle of winter with a cloud of frozen water vapour constantly snowing for 6 months and the streets frozen over in 3 feet of ice from dripping ‘tail’ pipes. And if hydrogen was all made from a nuclear source in the future, wouldn’t that be a source of non stop brand new water vapour in the atmosphere that would be above and beyond what would have ever been from natural sources? I wouldn’t bet the farm on hydrogen and fuel cells again…I lost a fair bit just after the dot com bubble when these fuel cell stocks were predicting the end of ICE engines.

      • Driller,

        If you were to burn all carbon on Earth from wherever it can be found, the concentration of CO2 would always be several orders of magnitude below H2O in all but the driest of deserts. H2O absorption bands are across the entire IR spectrum rather than the slight peak of CO2 around 15nm. Methane may have it beat on a molecule for molecule basis, but again even more orders of magnitude difference in concentrations. So reality says WATER IS THE MOST POTENT GREENHOUSE GAS BY FAR ON THIS PLANET. Now on some other planet with very little water, you would have a point.

      • … but if you remember the IPCC said it wasn’t the CO2 that caused most of the warming … it was the resultant water vapor that would heat that section of the troposphere 18km up that would kill us all.

    • Already the dominant GHG at 97%. The whole Green thing is circular. If the alien hu-mans would just go back to the stars,.. Earth would be fine. Volcanos,… ice melts,.. ice freezes,.. plants growing,.. plants dying,.. tectonic plates shifting,.. releasing/exhaling C02,.. oceans inhaling (CO2),… sun warms,.. earth moves farther,.. earth moves closer,… IF it weren’t for those darn hu-mans,.. trying to freeze everything, including time. Humans & Hubris ,…. Human-bris.

  10. Not sure about all the others “masses” , but this one is gonna drive its current mode of transportation into the ground, 282 ponies that really like to pull.

  11. “Hydrogen energy is not ‘green’ unless it is produced from renewable sources”

    Lol. Peel back the onion and look at the sources of the “renewables” to see how “green” they are.

  12. With GM CEO Barro claiming that battery prices in several years will drop below the magical $100 per kWhr price, there ain’t gonna ever be any hydrogen powered cars. Period. Conceivably hydrogen powered semi trucks, like Nikola is developing, which don’t need refueling stations on every block. Distriibution of hydrogen is apparently a nightmare – hydrogen is tough to contain.
    As a stationary storage medium there may be reasons for using it if one is assuming renewable energy sources, but I believe that advanced technologies like small modular molten salt nuclear reactors will undercut every other energy source in price, safety, cleanliness and reliability.

  13. This approach is promising but needs more than one breakthrough before it is ready for prime time… but hopefully this will be an important step.

    • Yes . Operated a 6L16 oxygen generator (we discarded the hydrogen , needed the oxygen )
      …generating units on a sister sub were known as “Widow maker one ” and “Widow maker two ” …

  14. Every time talk resurfaces about hydrogen powered cars, I remind myself of the Hindenburg disaster back in 1937. I seem to recall reading that one of the theories for its cause was that the hydrogen was ignited by static electricity buildup on the surface of the balloon.

    I’ll drive a hydrogen powered car the day hell freezes over.

    • Hydrogen has a relatively low flame speed and is possibly less dangerous than a tank full of gasoline.

      But that is not the best reason for not driving a hydrogen powered car, at least one with an internal combustion engine. Earlier I commented on a storage project using zinc hydride ( At the same time as that research the Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of Melbourne was investigating the use of hydrogen in such an engine. As I recall one of the major problems they encountered was pre-ignition which they tried to overcome with water injection. I don’t think they were able to overcome that and other problems they encountered (such as the low flame speed)—at least I presume so, because there are no popular cars operating with such an engine.

      • > “Hydrogen has a relatively low flame speed and is possibly less dangerous than a tank full of gasoline.”

        Again. It gets tiresome to keep hearing from physics that the engineering is trivial.

        • Who says the engineering is trivial Rob? I am an engineer! (retired, though). If the engineering had been trivial we would have seen the results of the research I described on the market long since.

      • i once did the math when somebody proposed aluminum hydride-
        turns out you may as well use logs of wood instead of logs of aluminum hydride- and get much more energy per lb, too.

      • Flame speed, my fuzzy rump!

        Gary you are not a very good engineer if you do not know that hydrogen detonates. I am surprised you lived long enough to retire. Must be one of those desk engineers who gets others killed.

        That property is very difficult to mitigate in an industrial setting. Failure often results in fatalities.

        Mitigation for transpiration will be too expensive.

    • The photo is misleading. The big fire you see is not hydrogen, which burns BLUE. The bright flame is from the skin, which contained iron oxide and aluminum, both components of solid rocket fuel. The static electricity ignited this combustible skin. The result would have been almost the same if helium was in the ship. It was many years before this was recognized as the correct cause of the Hindenburg accident. Hydrogen got an incorrect bad rap.

      • Driller,

        Interesting story, never heard before. Do you have a reference? It seems to me that skin can’t be ignited only by static electricity. What I have heard is that there was always some diffusion of hydrogen through the wall of the many “balloons”, used to store the hydrogen. Once that ignited the skin could burn all the way as the initial temperature / energy was high enough to start the fire.

        As far as I can tell, hydrogen diffuses through any soft material, which is a nightmare for sealing hydrogen containers…

        • I saw a program on cable a few years ago, with the statement that the “dope” used on the fabric for the Hindenberg was composed of iron oxide and aluminum powder in a nitrocellulose binder. Thermite and smokeless powder, effetively.

        • As far as I can tell, hydrogen diffuses through any soft material, which is a nightmare for sealing hydrogen containers…

          Heck, hydrogen diffuses through the steel pipe walls and steel pressure vessel walls needed to contain it!

          Hydrogen is an acceptable fuel source under certain circumstances and under certain economic conditions, as Ferdinand mentioned, there ARE application where it can work economically.

          But NOT everywhere for all purposes – as would be “required” in such proposals. Remove the subsidies and political rules being created BY the CAGW alarmists under their program of CO2 “propaganda war.” Let it be used where it can be used, under the circumstances appropriate and safe. But not subsidized, not legally required.

      • This film looks to have been colorized. I don’t believe the colors should be viewed as accurate. Yes, the doped fabric was flammable, but almost all aircraft used doped fabric in those days, and were not in the habit of spontaneously combusting. Set the gas tank on fire, and all bets were off. Bottom line, whatever the cause, and whatever the contribution of the fabric, it was the hydrogen inside which led to such a big fire.

        Spoke with a Honda owner about hydrogen storage. “Much safer than gasoline. It’s lighter than air, so fire is not an issue.” I remember making hydrogen in science class. We would collect the gas in paper bags, head outside and hold a flame to them. Boom! Guess the guy has never seen a car battery explode either.

      • Tom Halla,

        Nitrocellulose at that time makes sense and is a firm accellerator (or even initiator) of any fire… Together with aluminum powder it is the ideal material for disaster… Think of the many early films which burned out due to the celluloid used…

      • Iron oxide, aluminum and nitrocellulose. Thermite and smokeless gunpowder. Hydrogen was the least of the problem.

      • “…The big fire you see is not hydrogen, which burns BLUE…”

        It wasn’t pure hydrogen that was burning. The more oxygen that is present, the more likely to have a yellow/reddish flame.

        “… The bright flame is from the skin, which contained iron oxide and aluminum, both components of solid rocket fuel…”

        Tinfoil hat stuff. Do you not realize how many everyday products contain aluminum? Besides, the iron oxide was only on the upper half (UV protection). So why is the bottom part of the Hindenburg burning with the same color as the top if there’s no iron oxide there?

      • @Griff:

        The diesel fuel as an ignition source is unlikely according to the Wikipedia write-up on the subject…….

        “…. Most witnesses on the ground reported seeing flames at the top of the ship, but the only location where a fuel leak could have a potential ignition source is the engines. Additionally, while investigators in the documentary suggest it is possible for a fire in the keel to go unnoticed until it breaks the top section, other investigators such as Greg Feith consider it unlikely because the only point diesel comes into contact with a hot surface is the engines…..”.

        Source: (Page down to the “Fuel Leak” subheading).

        But nice try Griff. Keep plugging away at fossil fuels anyway—-don’t give up!

  15. I must print this off and add it to my file of “hydrogen cars just around the corner” articles that I have been keeping since the 1970’s. I miss Popular Science.

  16. It is not possible to run a chemical industry, like water hydrolysis, without reliable 24/7/52 electric power supply..
    Also,as mentioned, if the danger with petrol handling is 10 units, hydrogen handling should rete at least 1000.

  17. Electrolysis is not new; it’s been around for more than a century. The reason hydrogen is now made from natural gas is because electrolysis is far more expensive. Until the cost of power from solar calls falls far below the cost of buying electricity from the grid, there is no reason to use the more expensive method (which is still not cost competitive) . Size of the electrolytic cell has nothing to do with the economics. Plus, current electrolytic cells do not need platinum group metals, so there is no ‘breakthrough’ in cell cost or use of expensive catalyst metals.

  18. > UCLA researchers have designed a device that can use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be used to power electronic devices, and to create hydrogen fuel for eco-friendly cars.

    The device could make…

    Which is it? “That can” or “which could?”

    Getting very tired of physics thinking engineering is trivial.

    • Too true. Plus hydrogen is inherently bulky for the contained energy, so one has to consider the added structure to store the fuel in any space-limited application, such as anything mobile.

      • This was probably thought number 2 on problems-to-be-solved tally as I read the article… I don’t know the specifics, but at atmospheric temperatures and pressures, how many miles worth of BTUs in the form of combustible hydrogen can you store before your storage tank exceeds the size of the car? Is this going to look like the space shuttle’s external tank? The standard econobox has to tow a tank the size of a semi trailer just to make it to the end of the block? As I said, I haven’t done the arithmetic. Thought number 3 was when I read, ““If you could convert electricity to hydrogen, you could store it indefinitely,” said Kaner,…” Ummm… only if you can keep ahold of it. I believe a leak-proof hydrogen storage has yet to be built, those H2s are are some tiny little molecules and can slip through any gap. The only method that might be leak-proof would be about as useful as a write-only memory, if the vessel is actually hydrogen-leak proof, you wouldn’t be able to get it out again to use it when you want it. But the 1st thought, from the headline, “Hydrogen powered cars for the masses one step closer to reality”… if the journey is 93,000,000 miles, and this gets you to the end of the first hundred yards, how much closer are you, really? It’s like saying we’re one step closer to the sun, and haven’t even made it out of Earth’s atmosphere yet. And see below for thought number 4, “…solar energy… to create… energy.”!!! Which probably only highlights that the scientists doing the research are not the same critters that wrote the press release. But it’s nice to have dreams! While I don’t see this device as much use to transportation yet, perhaps it could help those applications that absolutely, definitely need hydrogen, and this could make that cost just a little bit lower. So it may not be a completely useless invention/application!

      • OK, I have done the math… Freely available from various sources on the web, gasoline averages 125,000 BTU/gallon. Hydrogen contains 52,217 BTU/lb (lower heating value) at 0°C 1 atm, and at those conditions H2 is 0.08988 g/L. Using standard conversion factors, that becomes 39.1671 BTU/gal. LOL!!! So, my pickup truck has a 34 gallon tank. Enough hydrogen at atmospheric conditions to contain the same number of BTUs is 108,509.4 gallons. I was wrong by a factor of 10, the maximum size of a semi-tractor tanker trailer is 11,600 gallons (also from the web), so I would need to pull 9.3 (since I have never been able to add more than 32 gal no matter how empty I get it, I’m willing to round down to 9, but since I rarely see as low as 0° C here in central Alabama I need to move it back up again to account for that, thus I’m still at a factor of 10) of those things to get the same number of miles my current tank of gasoline provides! That would be a sight to behold!

        [Volumes are for Gaseous hydrogen (at low pressure and ambient temperatures), or pressurized hydrogen gas (at extremely high pressures but ambient temperatures), or liquid hydrogen (at low pressures but at -260 degree temperatures)? .mod]

    • Not to mention the real breakthru — “use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create …. energy”. Perpetual motion here we come

  19. Whatever the disadvantages or promise of this approach to energy storage let us at least acknowledge that there is some clever materials chemistry involved in the electrode preparation. which may be of use in other areas , eg thin film sensors ( I used to dabble with making Ni-Co oxide thin films which were very efficient for detecting NO traces.)
    And the work is the result of collaboration between US,. Egyptian and Iranian scientists – which is an encouraging sign in an otherwise bleak world surely.

  20. So how are the authorities going to cope with terrorism when anyone can access a large amount of powerful explosive from any car parked on the side of the road?

      • D. J., you may have been watching too many movies. It is rather difficult to get gasoline to explode, despite all the special effects in innumerable movies.

      • @Tom Halla
        I am well aware of the difference between real life and Hollywood Physics. Bruce was talking about “access”, not directly blowing up a hydrogen laden vehicle. The tricky bit with gasoline would be aerosolizing it properly before igniting it. On a really big scale, that’s how the various BLU-XX and CBU-XX series weapons work. Also H2 would require generating the proper fuel/air mixture as well. Tragic as the Hindenburg disaster was, there was no explosion. The H2 basically burned from the outside in.

      • @paqyfelyc

        Imagine a sphere of pure hydrogen with radius “r” surrounded by air at STP, encased in a “magic membrane”. Ignoring buoyancy effects, imagine the membrane disappears at t=0. The gas immediately begins to diffuse into the surrounding air. From “r” to “r+Δr” the concentration varies from 100% to 0%, ignoring also for the moment that diffusion is a two-way street. At a distance “d” from “r” we have an ignition source. As soon as the spherical shell element “r+Δr” expands to the point where the gas concentration is greater than 5% the mixture will ignite, burning all the way back along the radius until the concentration is 95%. If diffusion is fast enough, the gas will keep burning inward until all the fuel is exhausted. What will not happen is the flame front racing into the center of the H2 sphere where the concentration is 100%.

  21. H2 is not green that comes from fossil fuels because it releases CO2, and as everyone knows, it greens the planet and doubles crop harvests and the endothermic photosynthesis reaction has a cooling effect (by definition). You won’t read about this cooling effect from alarumists, even though the process is not in dispute..

    • That showed high H2 purity, not efficiency. The energy input is much greater than H2/O2 reaction output.

      • Fuel cells need high purity hydrogen, or they need frequent purging to prevent the buildup of other gasses, some that may destroy the surface catalyst. For example, the Space Shuttle fuel cells had a separate grade of hydrogen than the H2 tank feeding the main engines. As for efficiency, yeah, I was looking at cells optimized for low cost. Mea Culpa.

    • “You put in water and electricity and get hydrogen and oxygen, and efficiency approaches 100%”

      Can you provide the link to that efficiency claim? IIRC they’re closer to 50%-70%?

    • High efficiency electrolyses has an energetic yield of around 80% if one uses “active” electrodes (which erode away over time…). Fuel cells are at 50% yield, thus the overall yield of PGP (power to gas to power) is about 40%.

      NiMH batteries have a power to power yield of over 90%.

      Seems to me that better batteries will win the battle over time…

  22. At the power plant only us engineers using experience and hydrogen sniffers were allowed to do the gassing up or down of the generators (operators were of course allowed to keep the hydrogen maintained in the generators). Now does anybody think hydrogen is going to be a casual fuel for millions & millions of vehicles & inexperienced/untrained people?

    • cant wait to see what happens when someone drives away from the hydrogen fueling station with the hose still attached! or they leave the cap off! or the fueling nozzle doesn’t seal perfectly! with gasoline, all you need to clean up a spill is a small amount of kitty litter, a broom, a shovel and a small metal trash can….hydrogen, no, not quite so simple.

      • I keep thinking about the fuss that was made about the Ford Pinto and the gas tank that tended to rupture and explode if the car was rear ended. The Pinto soon went out of production – for good reason. It was NOT necessary to take that particular risk. Now, the same question: Is it necessary to take a similar risk by using hydrogen.

    • BZ!

      Large electric generators are cooled with hydrogen because of several unique physical properties.

      As Beng indicated, handling hydrogen is not something you want to get wrong.

      Two workers were killed at a coal power plant in Ohio.

      Hydrogen is lighter than air and can collect pocket such as a roof overhang.

  23. “Conservation of energy” principles suggest to me that the available energy in the created/stored hydrogen from electrolysis cannot be more than the photovoltaic energy used to hydrolyze it. If that is correct, the available energy is limited to the power that can be produced with solar to drive the hydrolysis, which is not much, at least compared to fossil fuels.

    Also, I visited an oil refinery once. My understanding is that hydrogen was a co-product of the refining process (presumably not without some energy loss) and did not require direct consumption of the feedstock per se? But that was a long time ago so my memory may be incorrect.

    • conservation of energy principles, naw, those don’t matter!….with renewables, its easy. 1 Watt of solar input to “crack” water and get 2 Watts of hydrogen fuel. Abracadabra!! And the suns rays and water are free, so lets get to it. Or you can use free wind!

    • Kerry,

      About 95% of all current hydrogen is made from fossil fuels, mainly natural gas. The 5% is the byproduct of chlorine electrolysis. Our neighbors of the Exxon refinery bought part of our hydrogen for their desulphuration plant, as their own production from petroleum cracking was not sufficient.
      Thus while not totally “free”, as a byproduct it was sold at low price, or burned at the stack…

      Since about a year several hydrogen/fuel cell buses are driving here, taking hydrogen once a day from a chlorine plant in the Antwerp harbor. Advantages: high, continuous accelleration and much less noise…

      • And therein lies the rub. There can only be so much H2 production from chlor-alkali plants without the excess chlorine/hypochlorite overwhelming the planet. Remember that chlorine was the first “weapon of mass destruction” and bleach is labeled as being poisonous when sold to the public.

  24. Did I miss something? Did they give any indication of how MUCH electricity would store how MUCH hydrogen? And how LONG it would take to charge this device so that it could provide a useful length/amount of output?

    Thus, so far, it’s another pie in the sky green energy magic smoke.

  25. Some years ago I saw a nice product on sale: a 1 square meter portable solar cell to recharge your car battery. Nice. It needed 120 hours of sunshine to completely charge an empty battery.

  26. Small problem with thermodynamic: Water electrophoresis have maximal yield about 30 per cent. You need produce not only hydrogen, but also oxygen.

    • Phil

      I just happen to be an expert in handling hydrogen at both BWRs and PWRs.

      On BWRs, hydrogen is produced by intense flux in the reactor core. Since hydrogen is a noncondensable gas, it has to be removed from the condenser. The hydrogen and oxygen are recombined with the heat and water recovered.

      With a loss of power, ventilation was not available to purge the hydrogen.

      The video is an example of a detonation. Fortunately no serious injuries resulted by workers trying to rig temporary power.

    • That wasn’t a hydrogen blast. Check out the hydrogen blasts of reactors 1 and 2 (horizontal). I think the proper term for what happened at reactor 3 (the video) is a critical excursion.

  27. Oh wait is right. Elon Musk researched super or ultra capacitors early on and dropped them in favor of lithium batteries. He’s had nothing good to say about hydrogen and “fool cells.” But he’s not God, true. Just say’n….

  28. Doesnt more water into the atmosphere add to the greenhouse effect, isnt h20 largest greenhouse gas?

  29. A much more useful thing to do with cheap hydrogen, should it come about, will be to make the conversion of coal (or biomass) into gasoline and diesel fuel more economical. Transportation fuel problem solved. Hydrogen storage problem solved. Oh, and the very minor point of convincing folks that carbon dioxide is not actually a pollutant will come along soon enough too, I expect.

  30. Elemental oxygen at high concentration is corrosive. If you are going to do large scale electrolysis, you better have a plan for the oxygen.

  31. What an absolute waste of time. 16 moving parts in an electric car, battery technology streaming ahead. Moving back to any form of ice motor vehicle is an absolutely desperate move by a pack of dinosaurs.

  32. Just a couple of problem I can see —

    1. Apartment block underground vehicle parking, say 100 vehicles all leaking a little hydrogen might just be a problem.

    2. A storage capacitor is NOT a steady voltage device, the larger the load ( the larger the current requirement) the more the voltage droops. Just might be a problem trying to get a fast start from the (electric) motor.

  33. So we have a device that can, cheaply and with minor environmental impact, produce Hydrogen. So to power our cars, all we have to do is build out an entire distribution infrastructure, placing the hydrogen as close as a gas station to the cars, always keeping in mind that Hydrogen is explosive and a safe storage solution is needed.. Trenches, pipelines, tanks, transfer devices all over the place. OR, we could put a bunch of these devices at a power plant, make the Hydrogen there on the fly, burn it to produce the electricity, and use the already existing infrastructure to charge the car at your house, no need for lining up at gas stations. Let’s see, whole new explosive, inconvenient infrastructure, existing,relatively safe convenient infrastructure….gosh,I don’t know. The only real question is whether this gadget is both feasible and cost-effective for desalinization.

  34. “Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles: It is the cleanest fuel known, it’s cheap and it puts no pollutants into the air — just water,/b.,”

    Wait… Thought water vapor was a much more potent GHG than CO2?

  35. I’ve yet to hear what would be done with the water that would be the “emissions” from hydrogen-powered vehicles. If this is allowed simply to run onto the streets and highways, they’d constantly be wet, increasing the likelihood of accidents from slippery roads. In northern cities, these surfaces would become vast skating rinks. I’ve heard that one solution would be to equip each vehicle with water recovery tanks which would have to be emptied before it could be re-fueled. If anyone knows of any other solution, I’d be curious to hear of it.

    • It comes out at elevated temperature so it evaporates. It might condense under very cold conditions, just like that from automobile tailpipes.

    • Ivan you want me to do what to make your electricity?

      From the video, Ivan wants to send poor black people up ladders to make teeny, tiny amounts of power.

      As discussed earlier, there is hydrogen hazard with large generators that make huge amounts of power. At a power plant, safety experts like me are responsible for getting things done safely. Different people have different expertise. I would specify precautions necessary for confined spaces with hydrogen from nuclear reactions for example.

      If doing my job required climbing, another expert would specify precautions, make sure I am trained, and watch me.

      Here is the problem with parking your HFC car in the garage and getting power from your roof, I want to know where your children sleep so I can specify precautions.

      When, not if, there is a problem, Ivan will be getting his children killed.

    • “You sceptic numpties should wean yourself off your fossil fuels addiction.”

      Says Ivan who owes his health, his education, his standard of life, his iPhone o whatever he uses to post on here, the health of his loved ones, his access via transport to all of the above, even his toothpaste, the nightlife, cinema ect, to fossil fuels,

      Dude you are a parody, stop you are killing me baahahahahaha

      • ivankinsman, the proud witchhunter, I pity you.
        when old enough, you’ll look back and think “OMG, that was ME ? What a shame, not even sure my being young is enough an excuse”

  36. The best way to store hydrogen is to combine it with carbon into compounds called hydrocarbons which are easy to store and handle at normal pressures and temperatures.

    Hydrogen, even liquid hydrogen, is so light that any given volume of it carries very little energy.

    One liter of liquid hydrogen contains 71 grams of hydrogen. One liter of gasoline contains 118 grams of hydrogen, and on liter of diesel, 130 grams.

    Of course liquid hydrogen costs lots of energy to make, is difficult to store (it will leak out of any container in a matter of days), and is 423 degrees F below zero, so be careful when handling it.

    Compressed hydrogen is less dense than liquid, and kaboom.

    • Yeah, Ivan, the pure and noble motives of the greens are so overwhelming we must judge their proposals by those motives, and totally ignore the technical and actual environmental performance in the real world.

    • “By criticising and trashing dishonest media reports about vehicles powered on sustainable energy, ”

      Fixed that for you Ivan.

      Hybrid drivers by the many go back to gas cars thereafter.
      Most of the claims about fossil fuel powered electric cars are at beset dishonest.

      also 75% of global renewable is burning trees and garbage

      • Which part is crap?

        Renewable global
        Solar wind 0.7%
        Tide and GeoT 0.8%
        Hydro (which you eco muts block at every turn) 2.1%


        Gas prices were the biggest driver of Hybrid purchases, as prices fell, so did the numbers of those going back for another Hybrid.


      • “Love your solid argument “IT’S CRAP”

        With ivan, about all you will get.

        the “carp” is in his tiny socialist mind. !

      • Read it and learn something useful … you still have time to see what is really happening, particularly in terms of the great progress being made to combat AGW!

      • Read it and learn the opposite of reality more like

        Don’t hate your fellow humans Ivan, we are not destroying the planet, the planet is doing just fine.

      • Combat AGW, a theory that gets invalidated by observations at every turn, and relies solely on model projections 80 years from now

        A theory that has led to hundreds of utterly failed predictions.

        New York is meant to be almost under water by now, 50 million climate refugees, 1200 sunk pacific islands.
        Kinds wont know what snow is, hurricanes will be worse and more, cyclones too.

        *New York haivng no issue with SLR
        *only 1200 pacific Islands to sink for that prediction to be right
        *still waiting on 1st climate refugee
        *Hurricanes lol
        *cyclones lol.

        Observations burst your bubble at every turn, but to carry on

      • just as well snow has ended, there is white stuff outside my window, must be flour, might bake a climate cake.

  37. The article says they designed it…I did not see anywhere that it says they ever built anything.
    Models anyone?

  38. Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles

    Well, except for the fact that it is highly flammable and hard to store.

  39. Thats pure Fearmongering. When it comes to hydrogen, some people think of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. When the reactor buildings blew up there, the cause was exploding hydrogen, which had accumulated inside as a result of the ever-increasing fuel rods. Such images and the memory of the detonating gas reaction from chemistry lessons arouse the concern: Can this happen at the pump of the future?

    It is extremely unlikely. Because for a detonation, the hydrogen concentration in the air must rise to at least four percent. This is almost impossible at the pump, because hydrogen is extremely volatile as the smallest of all elements. It rises and disperses before a critical concentration can be achieved. This would require a closed room – but a gas station is open.

    In the event of a leak in the system, safety valves that detect a pressure drop also close. And if hydrogen has become self-evident at any point and should grind the maintenance routine, a deflagration, so a rapid burn-off, is more likely than a detonation. Escaping hydrogen gas could ignite and burn, for example due to a discarded cigarette. Like a camping stove.
    What remains is that hydrogen is no more dangerous than gasoline, rather less, as it evaporates faster in the air. Modern hydrogen tanks withstand up to 800 bar pressure so that even a traffic accident does not emit gas, in contrast to lithium-ion batteries, which are much more dangerous.
    Also double down with your fearmongering.
    The bigger problem is hydrogen in the energy balance. It still needs a lot of energy to produce hydrogen. Also, the shift of production to “renewable energy” brings a poor energy balance, as these do not work neutrally. There is the crack point and there is still research to do. But the comments here on the alleged explosiveness of hydrogen are so off the mark. Never, even when deliberately triggered, has the explosion of a modern hydrogen tank been observed.

  40. I’m not sure what advantage is gained by having a local, in situ, supercapacitor, as opposed to storing the charge in a large scale facility elsewhere on the grid. Super capacitors are either able to store electricity economically, or they aren’t.

    I can see that local storage of electrolytically-generated hydrogen might be beneficial in that it removes the need for H2 transport and the storage would be distributed and remote from the user, thus reducing hazard. But then you come up against the issue of making sure that the solar-cell or windmill always has a water supply. That may sound trivial to some but having to constantly “irrigate” large fields of solar cells in any location, never mind remote deserts, is an awful lot of expensive plumbing.

  41. The researchers designed the electrodes at the nanoscale — thousands of times thinner than the thickness of a human hair.

    How do you get any more than once times thinner?

  42. I still like the genius of Toyota in fitting the ugliest car body to a very limited production hydrogen vehicle to meet demands of CARB in CA and say you did it. That way they limited corporate cost and economic damage to the rational populations and regulators elsewhere. The best corporate strategy in today’s world is to fight advocacy stupidity with smart stupidity in rapid response teams of stupidity engineers. Well done.

  43. The stupid reigns supreme when you witness people trying to fight a not yet existent problem of the future with the dead-end technology of the past. Rather like telling Robin Hood that a howitzer will be coming in a couple of hundred years so he had better start building a bigger bow and arrow now.
    In a few hundred years time none of this technology will exist except in museums of wasted resources. No Ice cars, no hydrogen cars, no plug in electric cars, no wind turbines or solar panels screwed on to roofs. We’ll probably take our energy from the densest source available in some kind of nuclear device. Possibly small transportable devices. Or, possibly, some energy source that we cannot yet conceive. Dark Matter?
    The snowflake generation will die out and fear of the atom will dissipate. The Club of Rome will be found out as the freak show that it is. Griff and Ivan will go to their graves howling that their vision of the past for use in the future was never fulfilled. Coal and oil will be used as feedstock to create the plastics of the future not wasted by being burnt. My memorial will read that I didn’t give a toss about non existent climate catastrophies when I was alive and certainly don’t give a toss from the grave.

    • Indeed, we are back with windmills and a contemporary version of leaving your water in sunlight to warm

  44. The primary problem with hydrogen as a fuel remains the same. Hydrogen is the “Elizabeth Taylor of elements” – it is always married to something else. The divorce (not to mention compression and storage difficulties) will consume more energy than you will ever extract from the hydrogen “fuel,” thereby making it completely useless.

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