Getting the so-called layman interested in science can be a bit of a thankless task. So hats off to the University of Manchester, who’ve had a brave stab at describing their latest hydrogen fuel breakthrough in terms Joe Public can grasp: it’s a bit like crispy noodles.
Yep, you heard Greenbang, a bit like crispy noodles.
Greenbang will let the university of Manchester explain:
A new material developed in Manchester, which has a structure that resembles crispy noodles, could help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped out and drive the next generation of high-performance hydrogen cars.
After a nice bit of funding – to the tune of £150,000 – dished out to Dr Peter Budd, a materials chemist working in the Organic Materials Innovation Centre at the University, researchers are looking at a new polymer which looks like it can whip carbon out of emissions from the likes of power stations.
The polymers of intrinsic microporosity (let’s call them PIMs for short) will be used in special membranes for carbon removal and recovery and could even make storing hydrogen for cars a bit more safer and energy efficient.
Greenbang will hand over once again to the science people at Manchester:
Dr Budd said: “The PIMs act a bit like a sponge when hydrogen is around. It’s made up of long molecules that can trap hydrogen between them, providing a way of supplying hydrogen on demand.
“Imagine a plate of spaghetti – when it’s all coiled together there’s not much space between the strands. Now imagine a plate of crispy noodles – their rigid twisted shape means there are lots of holes.
“The polymer is designed to have a rigid backbone, and it has twists and bends built into it. Because of this, lots of gaps and holes are created between molecules – perfect for tucking the hydrogen into.
“The holes between the molecules give the polymer a very high surface area – each gram has a surface area equivalent to around three tennis courts. The molecules in the polymer act like sieves, catching smaller molecules like hydrogen in the gaps between them.
“The holes created in the polymer between molecules are a good fit for hydrogen. Hydrogen molecules stick in these holes and are kept there by weak forces – this means they can be released when they are needed.
“Hydrogen is most sticky when it is cooled down to low temperatures. When the hydrogen is needed to power the car, the system would just raise the temperature to free up the hydrogen molecules.”
PIMs were created at The University of Manchester several years ago by Dr Budd and colleagues.
Dr Budd says he is encouraged by the progress being made, but warns that a lot of work still needs to be done.
“In the context of climate change and dwindling oil reserves, hydrogen could be the perfect zero-carbon fuel for a car as it only gives water as a by-product,” he adds.