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Nanohorns for Storing Hydrogen


© F. Warmont/CNRS Photothèque

Dahlia-shaped carbon structures called nanohorns are promising candidates for the storage of hydrogen.

The definitive answer to vehicle pollution could well be the fuel cell, which uses pure hydrogen and produces no harmful emissions. But a number of problems need to be solved before this technology can see the light of day. Nanotechnology may help solve one of them: the storage and availability of hydrogen.
So far, the most reliable and economical means suggested to store hydrogen is to use porous materials. This would make it possible, on the one hand to confine the hydrogen, and on the other to release it easily so that it can combine with oxygen in the air. Among such materials, carbon nanoforms, in other words all carbon structures, “turn out to be very serious contenders because of their low mass and high absorption capacity,” explains CRMD1 director Marie-Louise Saboungi. “Work is currently focusing on carbon nanohorns, which were discovered in the 1990s. These are materials two to three nanometers long that assemble to form dahlia-shaped structures 80 to 100 nanometers in diameter. Hydrogen's interaction with nanohorns is much stronger than with carbon nanotubes.
So these tiny horns trap hydrogen more easily than their close relatives.” Moreover, nanohorns retain most of the adsorbed hydrogen at temperatures as high as 20°C, contrary to carbon nanotubes which need low temperatures for hydrogen storage (below -200°C). Along with these many advantages, one snag remains: their relatively high manufacturing cost.

Notes :

1. Centre de recherche sur la matière divisée (CNRS / Université d'Orléans).

Contacts :

Marie-Louise Saboungi,


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