Claim: “Bath Sponge” Metal Organic Material Makes Climate Friendly Hydrogen Automobiles Viable

Hindenburg Hydrogen Explosion Disaster
Last time someone tried to create a Hydrogen economy – the Hindenburg Hydrogen Explosion Disaster – By Gus Pasquerella –, Public Domain,

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The BBC reports a new highly porous metal organic sponge can hold large volumes of hydrogen at low pressure. But there are still a few issues to solve, like where to get all the hydrogen.

Climate change: ‘Bath sponge’ breakthrough could boost cleaner cars

By Matt McGrath
Environment correspondent
18 April 2020

A new material developed, by scientists could give a significant boost to a new generation of hydrogen-powered cars. 

However, hydrogen vehicles suffer from some drawbacks. 

The gas is extremely light – In normal atmospheric pressure, to carry 1kg of hydrogen which might power your car for over 100km, you’d need a tank capable of holding around 11,000 litres.

To get around this problem, the gas is stored at high pressure, around 700 bar, so cars can carry 4-5kg of the gas and travel up to 500km before refilling.

Now researchers believe they have developed an alternative method that would allow the storage of high volumes of hydrogen under much lower pressure. 

The product, with the glamorous name of NU-1501, has been built from organic molecules and metal ions which self-assemble to form highly crystalline, porous frameworks. 

“It’s like a bath sponge but with very ordered cavities,” said Prof Omar Farha, from Northwestern University in the US who led the research.

“With a sponge, if you spill water and you wipe it, in order to reuse the sponge, you squeeze it. 

“With this material we use the same thing – we use pressure to store and release these gas molecules.”

Read more:

The abstract of the study;

Balancing volumetric and gravimetric uptake in highly porous materials for clean energy

Zhijie Chen1,*, Penghao Li1,*, Ryther Anderson2,*, Xingjie Wang1, Xuan Zhang1, Lee Robison1, Louis R. Redfern1, Shinya Moribe1,3, Timur Islamoglu1, Diego A. Gómez-Gualdrón2, Taner Yildirim4, J. Fraser Stoddart1,5,6, Omar K. Farha1,7,

A huge challenge facing scientists is the development of adsorbent materials that exhibit ultrahigh porosity but maintain balance between gravimetric and volumetric surface areas for the onboard storage of hydrogen and methane gas—alternatives to conventional fossil fuels. Here we report the simulation-motivated synthesis of ultraporous metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) based on metal trinuclear clusters, namely, NU-1501-M (M = Al or Fe). Relative to other ultraporous MOFs, NU-1501-Al exhibits concurrently a high gravimetric Brunauer−Emmett−Teller (BET) area of 7310 m2 g−1 and a volumetric BET area of 2060 m2cm−3 while satisfying the four BET consistency criteria. The high porosity and surface area of this MOF yielded impressive gravimetric and volumetric storage performances for hydrogen and methane: NU-1501-Al surpasses the gravimetric methane storage U.S. Department of Energy target (0.5 g g−1) with an uptake of 0.66 g g−1 [262 cm3 (standard temperature and pressure, STP) cm−3] at 100 bar/270 K and a 5- to 100-bar working capacity of 0.60 g g−1 [238 cm3 (STP) cm−3] at 270 K; it also shows one of the best deliverable hydrogen capacities (14.0 weight %, 46.2 g liter−1) under a combined temperature and pressure swing (77 K/100 bar → 160 K/5 bar).

Read more:

I don’t see the hydrogen economy happening, just because someone invented a new storage material.

Hydrogen has huge problems. For starters, there is no economically viable path to producing affordable hydrogen from renewables.

The dominant industrial process for producing hydrogen is steam reforming, which requires vast quantities of fossil fuel. Feedstock, usually methane, is heated with steam at such an extreme pressure the water actually combines with the methane; the carbon in the methane grabs the oxygen from the water, producing hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The process is strongly endothermic, so even more fossil fuel is required to heat the reaction chamber.

Renewables can’t even beat this absurdly wasteful process.

There are lots of academics like Australia’s Chief Scientist, who are all excited about the imaginary hydrogen economy of the future, but none of them can explain exactly how to build an economically viable hydrogen economy. Their plan seems to be to throw vast sums of government money at the problem and wait for the magic to happen.

A variation on the theme is to use steam reforming, but sequester the carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide produced by the reaction. The idea is to strip the carbon out of the fossil fuel before it reaches the end user. Although this process is cheaper than absurd ideas involving renewables, it would still dramatically increase the cost of energy, compared to simply burning the unprocessed natural gas directly.

There is also a zero carbon nuclear powered hydrogen production process, but greens mostly like to pretend nuclear power doesn’t exist.

Even if the renewable production cost problems are solved, hydrogen is a terrible gas to keep in confined spaces. Large quantities of hydrogen would be far more hazardous in a home environment than natural gas, heating oil or gasoline. If hydrogen use becomes widespread, it seems likely a lot of people would be injured or killed in hydrogen storage accidents.

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Steve Case
April 18, 2020 10:11 pm

Their plan seems to be to throw vast sums of government money at the problem and wait for the magic to happen.

First chuckle of the day (-:

R Taylor
Reply to  Steve Case
April 19, 2020 4:41 am

Even funnier would be to tell Elon Musk about this.

Charles Higley
Reply to  R Taylor
April 19, 2020 9:14 am

It should be pointed out that the Hindenburg burned due to its outer silvery paint layer, which was composed of iron oxide and aluminum powder, also called thermite. Sure, the gas bladders were full of hydrogen because we would not sell Hitler helium, but the ship would have burned quite well anyhow. The sister ship, interestingly, disappeared right after the disaster and appeared a few months later with a brand new exterior. The Germans knew exactly what the problem was. For years we thought the event was our fault, but no, it was not.

Reply to  Charles Higley
April 19, 2020 9:55 am

LTA (Lighter than Air) vehicles are nice and have their uses, but long range travel is severely limited by altitude restrictions (they cannot cross mountain ranges easily) and mildly harsh weather.
And yes. the doping on the outer skin is what caused the flammability of the Hindenburg.

But, remember that helium, the next lightest element, has twice the mass as as hydrogen. The Hindenburg would need to be twice as big to be equally effective, and engineering does not scale so easily as mass increases as a cube while material strength only increases as a square.

A hydrogen economy won’t be using gaseous hydrogen all that often.
Electrolysis with sea water using all this “abundant green energy” is getting touted:

Its getting better, but I’m not holding my breath.

Smart Rock
Reply to  Rocketscientist
April 19, 2020 2:03 pm

helium, the next lightest element, has twice the mass as as hydrogen

Actually, no. Hydrogen gas exists as H2 with molecular weight = 2, helium exists as He with MW = 2

In any event the buoyancy is determined by the difference between the density of the gas inside the balloon and the gas outside, which is mostly N2 with MW = 28 and O2 with MW = 32. I still say molecular weight because I went to school in the 1950s and 1960s. I’m supposed to say molecular mass but it just won’t roll off the tongue.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
April 19, 2020 7:20 pm

From what I’ve read, the Hindenburg was originally designed to use helium. It was modified after the German’s found out the US wouldn’t sell them any.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
April 19, 2020 8:55 pm

Helium is the smallest noble gas. It has an atomic weight of 4 gm/mole, twice H2.

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Charles Higley
April 19, 2020 5:21 pm

The shell of the ship would have burned quite-well…and taken like 40 hrs, experts and tests show.

Not all thermite is iron oxide-based, nor does all thermite contain aluminum, nor are all iron oxide and aluminum power mixes thermite. And no, it wasn’t thermite.

Let this get you started.

Reply to  Michael Jankowski
April 20, 2020 2:22 pm

Apparently the Germans agreed that the culprit was the thermite coating.
The movie of the fire rather explicitly shows the fire starting high up under the top fin and progressing rapidly forward and down. If the covering was not the primary cause, although it was determined that it would be susceptible to ignition from a static charge if a panel became ungrounded, a spark also could have ignited a hydrogen leak. Regardless, the fire still burned primarily on the surface skin.

Reply to  Charles Higley
April 19, 2020 9:59 pm

Even though the initial ignition source may have been the thermite, once it ignited the hydrogen still would have ignited, and the result would have been the same.

Reply to  Steve Case
April 19, 2020 7:19 pm

It may sound funny, but this is the same strategy followed for every socialist scheme.

Reply to  MarkW
April 19, 2020 10:09 pm

Hydrogen combustion product is water, a worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Reply to  Rascal
April 27, 2020 5:21 am

So why didn’t the water put the fire out?

Reply to  jon2009
April 27, 2020 5:26 am

re: “So why didn’t the water put the fire out?”

Flat-lander thinking?

“Everyday Science: Starting fire with Steam”

JJM Gommers
April 18, 2020 10:18 pm

As I told before I have worked with hydrogen at temperatures from cryogenic up to 630 oC and pressures up to 35 bar. In a safe way.

Reply to  JJM Gommers
April 18, 2020 11:24 pm

How much capital investment did it require to make your work safe, JJM?

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Ralph Dave Westfall
April 19, 2020 4:28 am

35 atmospheres and hydrogen? Where did you do that work?

Reply to  Patrick MJD
April 19, 2020 7:13 am

Virtually every oil refinery has a hydrogen plant (some don’t because they are near a hydrogen pipeline) and hydrotreaters and hydrocrackers within refineries use that range of temperatures and pressures. Vessels used can cost hundreds of millions of dollars if I recall correctly. That’s why good engineers are worth their weight in gold.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Scissor
April 19, 2020 10:32 am

Yellow gold or black gold?

Jim Brock
Reply to  Scissor
April 19, 2020 6:46 pm

Clyde: Gotta be yellow. Have you seen the price of WTI lately?

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  JJM Gommers
April 19, 2020 6:24 am

In a similar fashion, I worked with liquid Helium while doing my research for a thesis at Rice U. Even now it gives me the chills (pun intended). In my opinion, one can work with low MW gases safely but not economically and there lies the problem. Engineering is where science meets reality. We need more climate engineers (go Rice U).

Reply to  Farmer Ch E retired
April 19, 2020 7:20 pm

I wonder if this material might be suited to natural gas, particularly in vehicles.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  anthropic
April 19, 2020 8:01 pm

Helium might work as fuel for an updated version of the DeLorean time machine.

Reply to  JJM Gommers
April 19, 2020 6:29 am

I work with hydrogen at over 2000C. It’s nearly invisible flame gets me once in a while, but I’ve trained myself not to involuntarily jerk from when I feel high heat.

Charles Higley
Reply to  JJM Gommers
April 19, 2020 9:09 am

Okay, so they have a way to store hydrogen in a sponge for a car, but how about all the handling and storage, let alone the sources, of hydrogen getting from the source to the car? It will have to stored as pressurized gas or cryogenic liquid (more expensive, for sure) and piped or tanked all over the place.

This is like the Brits forcing the people to use refrigerators that use propane (R-290) for the refrigerant. Houses started exploding as they started to fail.

Reply to  Charles Higley
April 19, 2020 7:25 pm

How much does the sponge weigh and how much space does it take up?
If it adds significantly to the tanks weight and or size, then it is a non-starter for automobiles.

Reply to  MarkW
April 19, 2020 7:55 pm

Exactly. If the gas itself is too bulky, how does that get better with a sponge?

Reply to  JJM Gommers
April 19, 2020 7:22 pm

That it is possible to work with hydrogen safely was never in doubt.
That it’s possible to economically transfer this technology to tens of millions of vehicles, all of which operated for years to decades with minimal if any maintenance and are going to be operated by people who have absolutely no training in the matter is.

April 18, 2020 10:25 pm

Germany Moves Into Hydrogen With Lessons From OPEC and Russia
Germany is taking its first steps to build an economy based on hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, seeking to deliver both green growth and to avoid being trapped by a small cartel of suppliers.
Ministers have been quietly lining up deals with nations including Nigeria that might produce hydrogen from renewable energy in the near future. The ambition is to reduce Germany’s pollution from on oil and natural gas — and to cut reliance on the counties that produce the fuels.

Germany floats draft hydrogen strategy ahead of EU Presidency
Germany’s draft hydrogen strategy envisages the use of CO2-free gas for the industry and transport sector, as well as millions for research. Under the draft plan, a large part of the country’s hydrogen will be purchased from abroad

Germany Sees No Role for Natural Gas in Draft Plan for Hydrogen

Germany Turns to Hydrogen in Quest for Clean Energy Economy

Germany launches world’s first hydrogen-powered train

Germany Taps Hydrogen Subsidies in Race to Replace Fossil Fuel

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  brent
April 19, 2020 6:44 am

If German tax payers are willing to buy less-expensive imports from CO2-intensive countries, why would they be willing to pay for more-expensive energy that gives the illusion of moving away from fossil fuels? Does anyone profit from using Nigerian labor? I realize that the German tax payers may not have much say.

Reply to  brent
April 19, 2020 7:24 am

The Germans seem to have a tendency to be purists in a sense. They had a vision to be world leaders in Solar and Wind Power. Now apparently they have a vision to be Purists wrt avoiding Carbon and going full tilt to an Hydrogen economy.
There was an earlier project to carpet the Northern Sahara with Solar panels, and transport the Power to Europe. Believe it was called Desertec. Despite challenges, that would be more technically advantageous than generating Hydrogen in Nigeria, and transporting Hydrogen to Europe

Reply to  brent
April 19, 2020 11:45 am

“Ministers have been quietly lining up deals with nations including Nigeria that might produce hydrogen from renewable energy in the near future.”

I do hope that they didn’t meet these Nigerians on the internet.

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  brent
April 19, 2020 10:22 am

Why don’t they just put another outlet in the wall so all the greenies can get their hydrogen along with all that clean electricity. Who needs power plants when you have wall outlets?

CC Reader
Reply to  brent
April 19, 2020 3:21 pm

Water is the most important thing on earth. We squander it in ethanol’s and are now planning on splitting h2O to created hydrogen. We have done that since 1958 on Nuclear submarines. On those we kept to oxygen and dumped the hydrogen over the side, we We cannot live without water!

Reply to  CC Reader
April 19, 2020 7:27 pm

We get the water back when the hydrogen is burned.
We got lots of water, and more of it is falling from space every day.

Reply to  MarkW
April 19, 2020 9:06 pm

Any economy based on hydrogen from electrolyzed water, or hydrogen from the water-gas shift reaction, will be have a negative GDP. Likewise for any hydrogen from photovoltaics.

A rich economy could use fission power to create hydrogen for cars. But it will be at a net loss of energy.

The whole idea is preposterous.

Chris Hanley
April 18, 2020 10:27 pm

Just a polite reminder Eric: there is no such thing as ‘government money’.

Richard (the cynical one)
Reply to  Chris Hanley
April 18, 2020 11:23 pm

There is the money the government takes in taxes directly, and there is the money the government creates, ‘printing’ as needed, which taxes us indirectly by diluting the value of all money in circulation. So in an apparent sense the government appears to have some money of its own, but we still pay the cost for it to come into existence.

Rod Evans
Reply to  Richard (the cynical one)
April 19, 2020 12:33 am


Chris Hanley
Reply to  Richard (the cynical one)
April 19, 2020 1:29 am

So in a nutshell: there is no such thing as ‘government money’.

B d Clark
Reply to  Chris Hanley
April 19, 2020 2:05 am

There is no such thing as government money , money is backed by a tangible asset, ie gold, governments create currency ,which is not backed by anything tangible, creating currency ,printing and touch of a button currency devalues money, causes inflation and right now deflation, eg housing market.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  B d Clark
April 19, 2020 4:37 pm

A little spot of history:

In February 1965 President Charles de Gaulle announced his intention to exchange its U.S. dollar reserves for gold at the official exchange rate. He sent the French Navy across the Atlantic to pick up the French reserve of gold and was followed by several countries. As it resulted in considerably reducing U.S. gold stock and U.S. economic influence, it led U.S. President Richard Nixon to end unilaterally the convertibility of the dollar to gold on August 15, 1971 (the “Nixon Shock”). This was meant to be a temporary measure but the dollar became permanently a floating fiat money and in October 1976, the U.S. government officially changed the definition of the dollar; references to gold were removed from statutes.[3][4]

From Wikipedia.

Van Doren
Reply to  B d Clark
April 19, 2020 5:27 pm

Money is backed by someone’s debt. Always. And money creation is simply monetization of someone’s ability to repay the debt.

B d Clark
Reply to  Van Doren
April 20, 2020 12:52 am

Currency not money is created out of thin air to enslave = debt .

Robert Terrell
Reply to  Chris Hanley
April 19, 2020 4:20 pm

Or, to re-phrase a saying from the 60’s: There is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’! In point of fact, there is no such thing as ‘FREE’ anything!

Reply to  Richard (the cynical one)
April 19, 2020 9:12 pm

Governments don’t make money by printing banknotes.

They merely dilute the available wealth, until the banknotes are worthless.

See Zimbabwe.

Crispin in Waterloo
April 18, 2020 11:23 pm

Hydrogen walks through walls. Even thick steel tanks, which it eat if they are made from mild steel. It is incredibly dangerous when let loose. It has a flame velocity that makes it a difficult engine fuel. It tends to blow the top off things.

Hydrogen burns 10 times faster than diesel so putting it into a diesel engine will wreck the already heavily loaded bearings. it is common for the wrist pin of a diesel engine to be 80% of the diameter of the piston. How will it be made large enough to cope with hydrogen?

The thermal efficiency of an internal combustion engine burning hydrogen is about 25%. A big drop. The case is still not convincing.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
April 19, 2020 4:04 am

Also, virtually ANY hydrocarbon fuels are a fairly good way to carry hydrogen around, already. The clue is even in the name!

Jim G
Reply to  Joe
April 19, 2020 9:08 am

Excellent point.
Perhaps we could rebrand fossil fuels as a hydrogen storage medium.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
April 19, 2020 6:37 am

Hydrogen has its share of issues but it’s already widely used for all kinds of applications. For example, almost all nitrogen based fertilizers (synthetic ones at least) were produced using hydrogen.

You can purchase a bottle of hydrogen in almost any town of decent size for oxy-hydrogen welding. It’s hazardous but can be handled safely.

George Shaw
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
April 19, 2020 6:44 am

The idea is to use it in fuel cells, not internal combustion engines.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
April 19, 2020 7:13 am

easy combine 22 hydrogen atoms with 10 carbon atoms. It has a much higher volumetric hydrogen capacity. It is a liquid at STP and easily used in diesel engines.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
April 19, 2020 8:25 am

I prefer to combine two hydrogen atoms with one oxygen atom. Of course, this has its own problems. For instance, my dihydrogen monoxide mixture is known to cause asphyxiation and death when inhaled, even accidently. Drinking large quantities of it causes death. It scalds the skin at certain temperatures, but at room temperature it deforms the skin. Dihydrogen monoxide is also a key component in fracking and nuclear power plants. It is a greenhouse gas. It causes soil erosion. Still, despite all these problems, dihydrogen monoxide is my favorite chemical.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
April 20, 2020 5:31 am

Did you just describe diesel?

Shoki Kaneda
April 18, 2020 11:26 pm

Hydrogen burns with a 2000°F colorless flame and has no odor. What a wonderful idea to store this notoriously difficult to confine gas.

Brooks Hurd
Reply to  Shoki Kaneda
April 19, 2020 8:49 am

I have worked with high pressure gaseous hydrogen, liquid hydrogen systems and hydride storage systems. I have given hydrogen safety talks to employees,
customers and at public hearings.

Hydrogen flames are faintly visible at night, but during the day hydrogen flames are only “visible” by the heat strirations they produce. The reason for this is that burning hydrogen produces light in the UV and far blue end of the spectrum. Unlike other burning things (paper, wood, oil, etc.) there is almost no radiant heat from a hydrogen flame. Not only do you not see the flame, you can’t feel it. You can feel the heat once you are in the flame, but there is no warning like the radiant heat from a wood or oil fire.

Another major safety issue with hydrogen is that it will accumulate in the high spots in a room or building. If there is no vent at that location, it has the unpleasant habit of lifting the roof. The ignition energy for hydrogen in air is extremely low and the flammable range is quite wide.

April 18, 2020 11:35 pm

The one method that keeps (almost) popping up is using catalysts to create hydrogen from water through sunlight.

One company (HyperSolar) claims to have made some progress, but the catalyst is still the sticking point, apparently.

Others are working on it, too, but it always seems to make it to the press release stage and not much further.

Reply to  cirby
April 19, 2020 1:26 am

You can tell when these companies need venture capital money by following the press releases.

Richard of NZ
Reply to  cirby
April 19, 2020 1:48 am

Catalysts do not reduce the amount of energy required to separate the hydrogen from whatever it is combined with. What they do is reduce the activation energy to allow the reaction to start.

p.s. Why is the Hindenburg incident always used as an example of the dangers of Hydrogen? The problem the Hindenburg had was the cellulose nitrate dope mixed with aluminium powder. Any explosive mixed with aluminium powder is far more effective than the explosive by itself. Cellulose nitrate is commonly called gun cotton and is the base of propellants for firearms ammunition.

Reply to  Richard of NZ
April 19, 2020 3:12 am

The Hindenburg incident was not unique . The British venture into airships was effectively stopped by the R101 crash :
From Google:
-“Why did the r101 airship crash?
On October 5, 1930, the British airship R. 101 crashed on a hill in Beauvais, France. The impact was gentle and survivable but the ship was inflated with hydrogen, and the resulting fire incinerated 46 of the passengers and crew. Two additional crew members died of their injuries soon after.5 Oct 2014”-

Reply to  Richard of NZ
April 19, 2020 4:25 am

Its amazing what cellulose dope and fabric can do – no need for hydrogen
Perhaps THAT is whey we don’t want hydrogen cars

Reply to  Leo Smith
April 19, 2020 6:40 am

A sad indelible memory.

Nick Graves
Reply to  Richard of NZ
April 19, 2020 4:40 am

Because Led Zeppelin

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Richard of NZ
April 19, 2020 5:06 am

The most likely cause was severe wind shear on the tail section with burst bladders in the tail section, snapped ties and static. The doped fabric didn’t help but was not the cause.

Reply to  Richard of NZ
April 19, 2020 7:02 am

Good on you Richard. I’m glad that you and several others here understand basic chemical principles.

Flight Level
April 18, 2020 11:48 pm

The numbers actually mean that to the weight of a tank certified to operate at 100 bars of hydrogen one has to add the weight of a substance able to hold a bit more than it’s own mass of fuel.

Which would offset each hour of cruise by at least 6’000 pounds of “spongy stuff” dead weight plus the weight of the container and some sort of unknown to me fuel management system.

Which, combined to contingency/extra/reserve fuel weight would annihilate ETOPS and render only regional flights within the capabilities of twin-jets.

Only aircraft with 3 or more engines would be allowed on longer transoceanic routes until they come with a way to cheat laws of physics.

However this would increase our quality of service statistics since given the extra weight we won’t be able to embark passengers, leading to no filed complaints even if we cancel flights all together.

How cool is that ?

Reply to  Flight Level
April 19, 2020 12:16 am

Don’t think anyone is seriously suggest H2 as a long haul aviation fuel. It emits a gas that isn’t particularly benign at those altitudes.

Flight Level
Reply to  HAS
April 19, 2020 3:21 am

Dear HAS,
Yes indeed, even Boeing was into it for a while and, here in Germany, several smaller ventures cash subsides for trying.

Their numbers are even worse than mine since weight is not the only criteria for a successful aircraft. Hydrogen storage occupies a volume about 5 times bigger than conventional tanks.

Which increases the surface of the A/C and leads to higher drag, hence more dynamic losses.

April 19, 2020 12:02 am

The most efficient way to store and transport Hydrogen has already been discovered it is to have it attached to a carbon molecule.

Shoki Kaneda
Reply to  LdB
April 19, 2020 9:07 am

Your subversive post has probably been noted by those who watch. 😉

Reply to  LdB
April 19, 2020 10:34 am

And when attached to a chain of carbons, the hydrogens can be easily and safely stored in a thin-walled container at atmospheric pressure. Plus the carrier carbon atoms also produce energy when oxidized, and the oxidation products are readily and harmlessly consumed by plants without any costly collection system. “…..ya don’t know what ya got till its gone…..” /s

April 19, 2020 12:05 am

Just imagine the consequences of an urban automobile accident loaded with a full “tank” of Hydrogen Sponge. Forget the driver and passengers. Also forget most of which occupies the surrounding four blocks!!!

Reply to  tomwys
April 19, 2020 8:59 am

It’s not gonna’ go ka-BOOM!!! Most likely scenario is a fire that will burn itself out in relatively short order. Stripping the H2 from the sponge is probably an endothermic reaction, so the fire would help that process along. If there wasn’t a fire, the H2 would slowly leak out and dissipate.

But this is just another toke on the dream-pipe of a Hydrogen Economy. The biggest and most insurmountable obstacle is the hugely expensive infrastructure and logistics of safely delivering huge quantities of H2 from its point of production to its point of end-use.

The Dark Lord
Reply to  DaveK
April 19, 2020 12:14 pm

the gas station won’t be storing it in a sponge nor will the truck that brings it to the gas station thru your neighborhood … a hydro-baric bomb waiting to happen …

April 19, 2020 12:44 am

The recent lockdown proves vehicles do NOT ‘pollute’ anywhere near as much as claimed. There is no need for H2 engines as yet.

Ian Coleman
April 19, 2020 1:42 am

What I have read is that hydrogen atoms are the most abundant atoms there are. They’re everywhere. Unfortunately, they’re attached to other atoms, and it takes prohibitively large quantities of energy to pry them loose. They’re like dollars: Abundant and ubiquitous, but always attached to somebody else, from whom you can detach them only with great effort.

I like God most of the time, but he has a tendency to ironic humour that can sometimes wear me down.

David Stone CEng
April 19, 2020 2:04 am

This idea is crazy. Liquid hydrogen is the most dense way that it can be stored, not in a sponge. A sponge holds liquid water, but the held volume is less than the sponge volume. Hydrogen gas could be stored this way, and probably fairly safely, but a huge volume is still required to store the quantities for transport at low pressure. What is needed is a chemical which bonds with hydrogen easily to form a solid or perhaps liquid, but holds a huge volume of hydrogen in the process, and the reaction is easily reversible. This is not a sponge, foam, gel etc. and is probably slightly fanciful as to its properties. Hydrocarbons are very convenient in this respect, although a lot of the energy comes from the hated carbon!

Reply to  David Stone CEng
April 19, 2020 2:23 am

re: ” What is needed is a chemical which bonds with hydrogen easily to form a solid or perhaps liquid”

Oxygen. The freezing point (IMO) that it yields is a little low to be practical universally throughout the world though … make use of an H2 -> hydrino transition and you’re good to go!

Reply to  _Jim
April 19, 2020 3:43 am

There is no such thing as a hydrino. Brilliant Light Power, nee HydroCatalysis Inc, then Black Light Power, is an investor fraud and has never produced so much as a single joule of useful energy in its almost thirty ears of existence. It never will, just as fellow fraudster Rossi never will with his fraud.

And while on the subject of fraud I should mention that the fraudster Shawyer has never produced a dyne of thrust with his Emdrive fraud, and also never will.

Reply to  acementhead
April 19, 2020 6:21 am

My neighbor is the guy who formed Industrial Heat LLC to commercialize the Rossi “invention”. The only people that made money on that were the lawyers.. which happens a lot.

Reply to  rbabcock
April 19, 2020 6:46 am

I think Rossi made out quite well financially and owns a lot of real estate in Florida.

Reply to  acementhead
April 19, 2020 6:48 am

Save your breath, so to speak, as Mark Twain said, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

April 19, 2020 2:18 am

Hydrogen – STILL not an “energy source”.

STILL being ignored (on account of well-entrenched, Pavlovian-like ‘discipline’ in physics via Bob Park’s diatribes still found online) – the latest validation report involving the the hydrogen (via water decomposition) to hydrino transition or conversion (which IS the basis for an “energy source”):

Dr. Mark Nansteel, Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley (a heat transfer expert) validated up to 275 kW of power produced by BrLP’s proprietary hydrino plasma reaction maintained in its SunCell® using water bath calorimetry. This report includes the description of the test apparatus and test procedure, a detailed systematic development of the proper forms of energy conservation to be applied in the calorimetric measurement, analysis of the heat losses in the tests, and analysis of the thermal and electrical data to obtain the calorimetric measurement of plasma energy release.

Test protocol:

Calorimetry data and analysis:

Reply to  _Jim
April 19, 2020 4:20 am

And yet somehow, after all these years, nobody is allowed to independently verify the results, even if they agree to sign an NDA, apparently. If it worked, they’d be able to get any number of subject-matter-experts verifying the results, and it wouldn’t cost much, assuming they have a reliable prototype. But only one?

Reply to  Joe
April 19, 2020 6:39 am

Between that and the e-cat we are saved 🙂

Reply to  _Jim
April 19, 2020 7:38 pm

If the thing worked, it would be trivial to get investors lining up at the door to take part in this great money making scheme.

The fact that after all these years they still can’t get a single investors says a lot about who’s being fooled and who’s acting Pavlovian.

April 19, 2020 2:47 am

Once again we get an article on hydrogen headed with a scary pic: the author must be moonlighting from the Guardian or similar alarm-peddling rag.

People we can handle hydrogen! We,ve been doing so since Victorian times.

Before the widespread adoption of natural gas many countries ran their heating, cooking, etc on town gas which was approx 50% hydrogen. There was a gas works in most towns: us older folk can remember gas holders being a feature of most skylines. The prime danger was not fire or explosion, it was poisoning due to the 20% CO content of the gas.

There are hydrogen pipelines running across NW Europe which have been there for many decades. I expect there are similar ones around petrochem complexes in many countries. Nobody knows they are there.

As other have said, hydrogen is a non-starter for many practical and economic reasons.
Please let’s drop the scaremongering.

Reply to  Mikehig
April 19, 2020 4:08 am

Right. The External Tank of the shuttle (a really immense amount of hydrogen in one place) literally never blew-up by itself. It did blow up once when it was burned by an SRB. Hard to get much safer than that, with hydrogen.

Reply to  Mikehig
April 19, 2020 6:41 am

Networked H2 not stored H2.

Reply to  Mikehig
April 19, 2020 7:39 pm

What was the pressure of the H2 in those pipes?

April 19, 2020 3:27 am

How exactly does a “bath sponge” get rid of the insane amounts of NO2 that hydrogen engines produce or reduce the amount of electrical generation necessary to split water?

Reply to  Prjindigo
April 19, 2020 6:56 am

Fuel cells. Also, nuclear power can be used for the electrolysis or even pyrolysis of methane.

One has to have nuclear power, however.

Reply to  Scissor
April 19, 2020 9:04 am

There’s always the direct-conversion fuel cell that uses methanol. Solves a lot of storage and transport problems, with the minor issue of toxicity. Still, less dangerous to handle than H2.

Reply to  DaveK
April 19, 2020 10:03 am

Methanol makes a lot of sense, also perhaps dimethyl ether which can replace LPG and even diesel. Of course, they contain that evil element.

Reply to  Scissor
April 19, 2020 9:28 pm

If the fuel cells are not burning the methanolic carbon to CO2, the elemental carbon from CH3OH +1/2 O2 –> 2H2O + C cruds up the electrodes.

Peter Charles
April 19, 2020 3:32 am

While the general consensus of replies says hydrogen as auto-fuel is too dangerous, too expensive, etc. it should not be forgotten that some of the major auto manufacturers either already have hydrogen fuel cell powered cars, e.g Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo, or have planned launches of the same over the next two or three years, like Mercedes, BMW, PSA (Peugeot) and Jaguar Land Rover just off the top of my head.

Reply to  Peter Charles
April 19, 2020 4:34 am

Like most ‘green’ tech its possible to make it work.It is just hopelessly uneconomic

I give you the steam powered aeroplane (I kid you not)

Reply to  Leo Smith
April 19, 2020 5:04 am

External combustion. Flash tube instead of a boiler.
With a good condenser you wouldn’t even need to carry much water.
What’s not to like?

Rich Davis
Reply to  Latemarch
April 19, 2020 5:20 am

Must have been the appalling lack of good condensers that prevented it from catching on.

Peter Charles
Reply to  Leo Smith
April 19, 2020 9:34 am

Not according to Toyota, they claim the Mirai Mk3 due out this year will be no more expensive to produce than a hybrid and this is before opportunities of scale kick in. Assuming the cars actually sell, of course. There are hydrogen filling stations around, 40 or so in California, 12 in the whole of the UK so very much early days. That said, with so many big names getting serious one might think they have been given a regulator’s nod and wink.

As to running costs, the British Evening Standard used a Mirai Mk1 in long term testing two to three years ago and found the cost per mile to be 17.4p, equitable with a similar performance/standard petrol driven car which came out at 16.3p. especially as the Mk1 was a proof of concept and improvements in efficiency are likely to have accrued.

I don’t say they will ever be more than a niche market or even get taken up by the public at all, but there is no reason to say they will be hopelessly uneconomic. You might be surprised to learn that there are currently 10 double-decker hydrogen powered buses operating in London UK at this very moment.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Peter Charles
April 19, 2020 10:12 am

Not hopelessly uneconomic is it? So how much of the 111.4p/l (USD5.27/ US gallon) average cost of fuel in the UK is tax?

Let’s estimate that assuming that the wholesale price in the US (excluding California) is $1.13-1.64/gal depending on the region. Take the highest price of $1.64/gal and subtract from the $5.27/gal UK average retail price. That’s $3.63/gal in taxes. (70%)

You did plan to levy the same equivalent tax per km driven on hydrogen, right? Is the fuel tax not intended to defer the cost of road maintenance?

Oh wait, since you say that the relative cost of (petrol with tax) to (hydrogen without tax) is 17.4/16.3, then the simple solution is to increase the tax on petrol until hydrogen is cheaper than petrol, wouldn’t that be Modern Econ 101?

Raise the tax on petrol even more and the savings from switching to hydrogen could fund the NHS for years to come, am I right?

Reply to  Peter Charles
April 19, 2020 10:17 am

Some in Aberdeen as well.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Peter Charles
April 19, 2020 4:50 am

Surely none of those companies are receiving government subsidy payments for their virtue-signaling public relations schemes. After all, there is a well-developed infrastructure for producing and distributing hydrogen at the retail level, so that millions of hydrogen fuel cell cars could be sold to quickly recoup their investment, right?

It’s just ridiculous for anyone to imply that big auto companies would accept government money to profitably produce prototypes that they know cannot be practically deployed.

Other than being dangerous, impractical, not cost-competitive, and a fraud reliant on subsidy money, it seems like a great idea, Peter. Do tell us more.

Peter Charles
Reply to  Rich Davis
April 19, 2020 2:32 pm

The U.K. government announced £28 million ($36.47 million) in funding on Tuesday Feb 18 2020 for five projects focused on hydrogen production.

The funding is part of a £90 million package which in turn comes from a £500 million innovation fund. The Hydrogen Supply program, as it’s known, will focus on five “demonstration phase” projects. Following on from £23million hydrogen infrastructure funding in 2017, £9 million in 2018 and £14 million in 2019

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), formed in 2013 from a commitment between the government and automotive industry through the Automotive Council to position the UK as a global centre of excellence for low carbon powertrain development and production, supports the UK Government’s drive to achieve net zero carbon by 2050. Late last year they funded a programme that integrates Intelligent Energy’s latest generation high powered hydrogen fuel cell system into SUVs for Changan, China’s 4th largest car manufacturer, and buses for ADL, the UK’s leading bus manufacturer.

Also August 15 last year the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced approximately $40 million in FY 2019 funding for 29 projects to advance the H2@Scale concept. The focus of H2@Scale is to enable affordable and reliable large-scale hydrogen generation, transport, storage, and utilization in the United States across multiple sectors. Funded through the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), with contribution from DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, the selected projects will advance hydrogen storage and infrastructure technologies and identify innovative concepts for hydrogen production and utilization including grid resiliency.

You still think the UK and other Governments aren’t keen to see hydrogen fueled vehicles Rich? If you want a bigger picture just Google ‘UK hydrogen fuel’ or similar and you will likely be shocked by just how much the concept is being pushed.

Reply to  Peter Charles
April 19, 2020 9:35 pm

All the UK must to do to achieve economic hydrogen power is have Parliament repeal the laws of Thermodynamics. Simple.

Peter Charles
Reply to  Pat Frank
April 20, 2020 4:58 am

Not so Pat. All they have to do is throw grant money and subsidies at it while slapping heavy regulation, taxes and special charges at the alternatives in order to make them uneconomical. Exactly as they have already done with those other ‘alternative’ energy supplies, wind and solar.

Reply to  Pat Frank
April 20, 2020 10:18 am

Right, Peter. Except for the qualifier, ‘economic.’ 🙂

Rich Davis
Reply to  Peter Charles
April 20, 2020 12:32 pm

It seems that you are completely immune to reason Peter.

You completely ignored everything I asked you and proceeded to demonstrate exactly my point, that your government is exceedingly keen to pour money down any number of rat holes pursuing outrageously uneconomic and utterly unnecessary schemes.

You didn’t mention how road maintenance should be financed once there is no tax on transportation fuel (when the only fuel is subsidized hydrogen).

You didn’t explain how any of these loss-making schemes are going to produce hydrogen without hydrocarbon feedstocks.

And I didn’t even bother to ask you to justify why the UK ought to beggar itself to eliminate CO2 emissions that will be immediately replaced by emissions from China and India within a year after the UK goes carbon zero.

Perhaps it eludes you that I never said that hydrogen fuel cells and distribution systems are not technically possible, given enough OPM and a daft enough government willing to destroy its own society for no reason whatsoever.

I said that the scheme is “dangerous, impractical, not cost-competitive, and a fraud reliant on subsidy money”. You countered with “not so. Look at all the subsidy money being flushed down the toilet. You see, the UK government really is that daft!”

Peter Charles
Reply to  Rich Davis
April 20, 2020 1:45 pm

Perhaps it would help if you re-read your comment April 19, 2020 at 4:50 am which was what I was replying to as we seem to be talking at cross purposes.

You made three points: ‘Surely none of those companies are receiving government subsidy payments …’ to which I responded, yes they are; your second sarcastically made point was, ‘there is a well-developed infrastructure for producing and distributing hydrogen at the retail level, so that millions of hydrogen fuel cell cars could be sold to quickly recoup their investment, right?’ to which I responded no, but ongoing governments are spending a lot on such infrastructure to make it so; while your third point was, ‘It’s just ridiculous for anyone to imply that big auto companies would accept government money to profitably produce prototypes that they know cannot be practically deployed.’ to which I again responded, yes they are.

All of my responses can easily be checked via a simple internet search, it is all in the MSM. Personally I think that was a perfectly reasonable response.

As to my use of ‘not so’, that was not in reply to your comment.

As to your comment of April 19, 2020 at 10:12 am, I didn’t respond to it as I don’t disagree with it.

B d Clark
Reply to  Rich Davis
April 20, 2020 1:59 pm

As of today the department for transport have given powers to local authoritys to close UK roads if the local authority s deem it suitable, this was after local authorities had been breaking the law by closing roads , on the understanding these measures will be lifted after the pandemic is over.

New UK planning laws are already in operation to decrease personal car transport, eg restricted parking on new estates ,local towns having reduced parking spaces, prioritising electric car parking ,( which wont be affordable for the general population) the UK is hell bent on destroying private mobility, there has been no public consultation on the above measures just the old excuse “we have consulted with stakeholders” even when restrictions are lifted there is talk of no private transport unless you have been tested , second home owners in rural areas will be stopped from travelling to second homes which is the case now, the new legislation will give powers to local authorities to remove you from your second home if you make it there, which they cant do at the moment. All ready in the UK certain roads have been closed for years ,particularly mountain roads ,rural roads.

These measures have been in the pipeline a long time ,covid19 is giving the toltairians a boost to their plans.

The below article is linking the pandemic with air pollution again its suggestive with no dates ect , more scaremongering by the BBC.

The BBC are relentless in there attack on people ,denying the opposing view , publishing articles that are not even at the stage of peer review, there is a agenda ,who’s dRiving this agenda is unclear ,government departments ,even though they may contradict other government departments, environmentalists mascarading as environmental reporters , secrect lobbyists Greenpeace, windpower and solar power industry, you name it there all involved in the biggest undemocratic scam of all time. And know one is questioning this in public,

Curious George
Reply to  Peter Charles
April 19, 2020 7:32 am

We only have hydrogen-powered fuel cells because their chemistry is the simplest. The only complex fuel cells for transportation in use are horses, camels, and yaks.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Curious George
April 19, 2020 9:14 am

Ok, but even if a cost-effective (low-maintenance, long useful life, total annualized cost per distance driven) and safe hydrogen fuel cell can be built, how to address the lack of infrastructure, the storage of sufficient amounts of hydrogen on board to provide useful driving range, and above all, the production of hydrogen?

Reply to  Curious George
April 19, 2020 7:42 pm
April 19, 2020 3:51 am

PV = znRT as a gas

As a liquid, if I read this correctly, H can be compressed up to ~3X at 40,000 atm (basing that on the increase in density in the Abstract):

April 19, 2020 4:19 am

Until there’s nuclear fusion generators that can fit under the hood, hydrogen is not a useful fuel.

Reply to  Patrick
April 19, 2020 7:19 am

A few years ago I saw one of those in the trunk of a car, a DeLorean I believe.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  yirgach
April 19, 2020 7:56 am

Not the DeLorean I drove.

Reply to  yirgach
April 19, 2020 9:40 pm

Right “Mr. Fusion” as I recall.

Apparently, it could run on empty beer cans. The ideal transportation for frat fellows.

April 19, 2020 4:31 am

Issues with hydrogen:

Whilst it’s light it is very very bulky. You need very big tanks.
Because the molecules are tiny its hard to seal its tanks.
It’s extremely explosive. It may not have the detonation of a proper high explosive but flame propagation is damned rapid in air. The flame is colourless.
Adsorbing it onto a metal foam may keep it in place better but at the expense of even more tank and considerable weight.
Conversion efficiency to and from mechanical power is not good.
It is not a primary energy source.
So: expensive, bulky and/or heavy, dangerous and inefficient.
No wonder greens call it the energy of the future 🙂

Patrick MJD
April 19, 2020 4:33 am

“The dominant industrial process for producing hydrogen is steam reforming, which requires vast quantities of fossil fuel. Feedstock, usually methane, is heated with steam at such an extreme pressure the water actually combines with the methane; the carbon in the methane grabs the oxygen from the water, producing hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The process is strongly endothermic, so even more fossil fuel is required to heat the reaction chamber.”

And that is exactly why, today, it won’t work. And yet, people *STILL* believe it is the future.

Sal Minella
April 19, 2020 4:55 am

Where is Rossi when we need him?

Reply to  Sal Minella
April 19, 2020 6:42 am

If you look above we have brilliantlightpower here to save the day … unfortunately just like Rossi the technology has stage fright you need to coax it out with more money.

Mike McHenry
April 19, 2020 6:04 am

I feel like I just woke up and it’s the 1970’s. During the “energy crisis” there was much talk about the hydrogen economy. For auto’s it was sponge titanium and hydrogen under pressure then

Reply to  Mike McHenry
April 19, 2020 8:53 am

Thanks, Mike. I was trying to remember when I had heard of this “sponge” idea to store H2. I new it was not new, just this particular brew.

Robert Terrell
Reply to  oeman50
April 19, 2020 4:25 pm

It reminds me of the talk, back then, of cars using ‘fuel cells’, to prevent rear end explosions. It sure sounded like a GREAT idea, so what ever happened to that?

April 19, 2020 6:29 am

Nuclear Power has to run full out to be efficient and some of the TVA nuclear plants have pumped hydro storage to balance generating capacity with demand. I suspect you could use excess capacity at low demand times to make hydrogen. The sponge storage could potentially be used to extend the range of EV’s and the article also mentioned methane storage which could make natural gas vehicles more practical.

Curious George
Reply to  Sean
April 19, 2020 7:36 am

Every wind/solar farm should be backed up by a pumped hydro.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Curious George
April 19, 2020 9:41 am

That’s a great regulation, Curious George. And every wind/solar farm that pays the full capital and operating costs for their primary and backup systems without government subsidies, and sells power into the grid without preferential access and without source mandates on consumers or distributors, should be celebrated. (Will be celebrated vigorously by me).

Of course there won’t be much celebration I reckon.

April 19, 2020 7:04 am

Why go to such great lengths? The entire premise that current automobiles are not climate friendly is unproven.

Curious George
April 19, 2020 7:46 am

I like the Australia’s Chief Scientist angle. It is a nice fairy tale for adults. Younger people still prefer The Seven Dwarfs and happy ends. The end of science is not happy.

April 19, 2020 9:07 am

Hydrogen will never be a viable fuel for anything other than spacecraft.

Reply to  beng135
April 19, 2020 10:05 am

Then, what is the substitute for hydrogen in oxy-hydrogen welding?

Reply to  Scissor
April 20, 2020 6:19 am


Reply to  Scissor
April 20, 2020 12:40 pm

The substitute is a better welding procedure.

April 19, 2020 11:09 am

The Metallic Sponge for Hydrogen storage idea goes back to the mid 1970’s. I wrote a paper for Junior High on this in 1979.

Reply to  UNGN
April 19, 2020 11:28 am

This article concerns metal organic frameworks, which are perhaps a new invention of the last 20 some years.

old engineer
April 19, 2020 2:02 pm

I was more interested in section of the Abstract that talked about using their material to store methane (natural gas). There are lots of buses around the U.S. fueled by natural gas. All use pressurized fuel tanks. It would be a lot safer to store the natural gas at a lower pressure. However, note that it takes heating the tank to get the gas out.

Reply to  old engineer
April 20, 2020 12:50 pm

Would seem better to use propane for vehicles instead of natural gas — stays liquid at relatively low pressures (100 psi). Commonly used to fuel emergency power generators.

M B Pinder
April 19, 2020 3:10 pm

How about the electrolysis of water? The problem is, that in order to get hydrogen out of water requires at least the amount of energy released when the hydrogen combines with oxygen to make the original water. The second law of thermodynamics says that there will be an energy loss, i.e. it will take more energy to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen in the water than the original heat of formation of the water being decomposed. Far more efficient to use the electricity directly. Anyway, isn’t water vapour a greenhouse gas? Any device powered by hydrogen will have to condense the water vapour produced by the burning of the hydrogen. Fuel cells? Even more energy loss, you’ll end up with even less electricity than you started with. Oh, but of course
with renewable sources we’ll have indefinite amounts of energy to waste. Blah blah etc.

Dennis G. Sandberg
April 19, 2020 3:24 pm

Germany has more wind and solar power than it can economically distribute and utilize. To perpetuate their “Energiewende” dream they need to put windy and sunning excess wind and solar generation to use. No way in hell will they import hydrogen from Nigeria…that BS will disappear during an early draft of “the plan”. They know battery storage and pumped storage is unworkable so hydrogen wins by default. Conservatives, such as the AfD, understand that the only feasible alternative to imported Russian natural gas is restarting their nukes. Once Merkel leaves (soon) doing so will be politically possible (IMHO).

Rudolf Huber
April 21, 2020 3:28 pm

Economics folks. What does all this cost? Or is it just one more vanilla technology that only a select few can afford?

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