Hydrogen Cars May be a Step Closer

Now that gas prices are finally stabilizing alternative fuel ideas may return to the back burner. But here in Houston that kind of research never stops. One Rice professor may even be a step closer to a solution. From the KUHF Newslab Edel Howlin has the story.

Hydrogen is one of the fuel alternatives to oil. The main problem that many organizations are working on is storing enough of it in an engine to make it a viable option.

Rice University mechanical engineering professor Boris Yakobson may have overcome that hurdle. He’s working on a carbon structure that resembles a ‘grapevine’ which stores large amounts of hydrogen energy.

"A novel structure which has a particular form of carbon as a building element. Then in addition to this, we also introduce another element calcium. Calcium has special property of attracting hydrogen molecules."

The Department of Energy’s goal is to develop a structure that can store at least 6% of its weight in hydrogen.

Yakobson says his model would store closer to 8%. The carbon, calcium, hydrogen structure would also be strong enough to store hydrogen at higher temperatures. That’s something Yakobson believes is essential in making hydrogen a viable replacement for oil.

"So preferably from 'customer point of view,' you want everything to go on your natural room temperature, ambient temperature — like you do at a gas station."

Right now, this is just a concept idea. It hasn’t been tested in a lab. But Yakobson believes some promising advances have been made moving closer and closer to the reality of hydrogen cars on the road.

Bio photo of Edel Howlin

Edel Howlin

Producer, Houston Matters

Edel is a producer on Houston Matters and reporter for PBS’s Newshour Weekend...