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.
According to researchers at Rice University a graphene film separated by boron nanotube columns could be used as a material for storing fuel 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 laboratory determined the elastic and columnar graphene structures by computer simulation, and then processed the boron nanotubes to create a mixture that simulated a unique 3-dimensional structure. (A sample boron nanotubes seamlessly bound to 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 then exit when needed.
The researchers discovered that the pillared graphene and pillared Boron Nitride graphene have a high surface area (approximately 2,547 sq. m. per square meter) as well as good recyclability in ambient conditions. Their model shows adding lithium or hydrogen to the material improves its ability to combine with hydrogen.
They concentrated their simulations on a four-variant structure: a graphene boronnitride doped with lithium or oxygen.
The best graphene at room temperature was oxygen-doped boron oxide graphene. This graphene weighs 11.6% (by weight) and has a volume of 60 g/L.
The material's hydrogen weight was 14.77% in cold weather at -321 Fahrenheit.
The current US Department of Energy economic storage media goal is to store more hydrogen than 5.5% in weight and 40 grams of hydrogen per liter under moderate conditions. 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 polarization characteristics of boron Nitride combined with graphene as well as the electron mobility in graphene themselves make the material highly adaptable to applications.
Shahsavari explains that "we are looking for the best point" which describes ideal conditions such as the balance between weight and surface area, operating temperature, and pressure. "This is only possible through computational modeling as we can test a lot of 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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