Scientific community has long been fascinated by boron nitride due to its unique properties: sturdy, ultra-thin transparent, insulating and lightweight. The boron is a material that can be used by a wide range of researchers.
Scientists from Rice University have found that a graphene matrix separated by columns made of boron nitride microtubes may be suitable for storing hydrogen in automobiles.
The Department of Energy is setting the standard in storage materials to make hydrogen fuel a practical option for light vehicles. A new computational study by materials scientist Rouzbeh Sharsavari of Rice Lab has determined that pillared Boron Nitride and graphene may be suitable candidates.
Shahsavari's lab determined the elastic and columnar graphene structures by computer simulation, and then processed the boron nanotubes to create a mixture that simulates an unique three-dimensional structural design. (A sample consisting of boron nanotubes that are seamlessly bonded with graphene is prepared.
As the pillars between the floors of a building provide space for people, so do the pillars within the graphene boron-nitride. The goal is to keep them inside and get out as necessary.
The researchers discovered that the pillared graphene and pillared Boron Nitride graphene have a high surface area (about 2.547 square meters/square meter) as well as good recyclability in ambient conditions. Their model shows adding oxygen or lithium will improve the material's ability to combine with hydrogen.
They concentrated their simulations on four different variants: either a graphene pillared with boron or lithium, or a graphene pillared with boron or lithium.
The best graphene at room temperature was oxygen-doped boron oxide skeletons.
The material's hydrogen weight was 14.77% in cold temperatures below -321 Fahrenheit.
Under moderate conditions, US Department of Energy has set a target of storing more than 5.5% of hydrogen by weight and 40 grams of hydrogen per liter. The ultimate target is 7.5% weight and 70 gram per liter.
Shahsavari explained that the hydrogen atoms adsorb on the undoped pillared Boron Nitride Graphene due to a weak van der Waals force. When the material has been doped with oxygen the atoms are strongly bound to the mixture. This produces a surface which is better for hydrogen.
"Because the nature of charge and interaction, adding oxygen to the substratum gives us a strong bond," said he. "Oxygen, and hydrogen have been known to share a strong chemical affinity."
Shahsavari explained that the boron nitride polarization properties combined with the graphene electron mobility make the material highly adaptable in application.
Shahsavari explains that "we are looking for the best point" which is a description of ideal conditions such as the balance between weight and surface area, operating temperature, and pressure. This is only possible through computational modeling. We can test many different changes very quickly. In just a couple of days, the experimenter is able to finish the work that would normally take months.
He said these structures are strong enough to easily surpass the requirements of Department of Energy. The hydrogen fuel tank, for example, can withstand up to 1,500 charging and discharging cycles.
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