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Characterization and High Throughput Analysis of Metal Hydrides for Hydrogen Storage


Efficient hydrogen storage is required for fuel cell vehicles to be competitive with those driven by internal combustion engines. Current methods of storage such as compressed gas and liquid hydrogen cannot meet this standard, so novel hydrogen storage materials such as metal hydrides are required. No simple metal hydride meets the required specifications. Research is required to find new materials or improve existing materials.

This thesis describes the research practices necessary to achieve legitimate and repeatable results in laboratories across the world. Examples of experiments using these techniques are presented, such as a high throughput technique to optimize materials systems with up to three components such as calcium borohydride with titanium catalyst and magnesium hydride with nickel and aluminum as destabilizing elements and catalysts. Thin films composed of gradients of each material were deposited by sputtering, creating a single thin film sample covering all potential material combinations. Optical properties of the samples under hydrogen pressure were monitored to identify the regions with largest and fastest hydrogen uptake. In the Ca-B-Ti system, titanium did not sufficiently catalyze the borohydride formation reaction at low temperature. Substantial hydrogen uptake was shown in the Mg-Ni region of the Mg-Ni-Al films. Al did not participate in the reaction at low temperature.

Further investigation of the role of catalysts and destabilizing elements in improving hydrogen storage performance through X-ray Absorption and Emission Spectroscopy measurements of the Mg-Ni system during hydrogenation is presented. Typical X-ray spectroscopy measurements use a synchrotron radiation source and require ultra high vacuum conditions. For these experiments we designed a chamber which can be inserted into a vacuum chamber allowing in situ measurements of a sample under hydrogen pressure, providing information on the role of Ni in hydrogen absorption of Mg-Ni mixtures.

Finally, another technique for improving hydrogen storage performance is presented which focuses on promising materials studied using the high throughput technique. TiO2 powder was ball milled together with NaBH4, and gravimetric analysis shows a 50% improvement in the kinetics of the hydrogen desorption reaction and a reduction in desorption temperature of 60 oC.

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