Powerpaste 10 times better than battery, tops up in minutes with more range than petrol
This ugly grey pudding may just be the e-fuel silver bullet the world has been waiting for. Developed by the giant German Fraunhofer Institute, revolutionary new magnesium-based ‘Powerpaste’ stores hydrogen energy at ten times the density of a lithium battery to offer hydrogen fuel cell vehicles the ability to refuel in minutes and store enough energy to travel further than petrol or diesel powered vehicles too.
POWERPASTE TAMES HYDROGEN
Hydrogen has always been a problem to store and handle. It only flows at minus 259 degrees Centigrade — or 14 above absolute zero. And it must be stored at extremely high 700 bar pressures. Thus the slow development of fuel cell vehicles that require hydrogen to be stored in vast cylinders, which make it difficult to design a car around and potentially hazardous in the event of a major accident.
This writer first drove a fuel cell car 20 years ago ,when that tech was already sound enough to deliver a car of more than competitive performance. But the practicalities and the limitations above have outweighed hydrogen gas’ far superior fuel density and prevented all but very few hydrogen cars to ever make production. They still face severe restrictions around the availability of potable hydrogen, its storage and its transfer.
Now all of that has quite literally been swept under the carpet in one foul swoop.
POWER PUDDING MAKES H EASY TO HANDLE
Develoved by a team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials team in Dresden, Germany, magnesium hydride-based Powerpaste is a revolutionary new method of storing and carrying hydrogen energy. This pudding like substance stores hydrogen at atmospheric pressure and in a simple and easy to handle and is ready for release chemical form, as and when needed.
“With Powerpaste, hydrogen can be chemically stored at room temperature and ambient pressure,” Fraunhofer white jacket Dr. Marcus Vogt explains. ”And then the hydrogen can be released again as required.
Powerpaste is it’s completely stable at temperatures up to 250 °C. “Powerpaste has a significantly higher energy storage density than that of a 700 bar pressure tank,” Dr Vogt points out. “It even has ten times the energy efficiency of a battery and will deliver a driving range even greater than a petrol car.”
SO SIMPLE TO REPLENISH
Powerpaste is produced by combing magnesium with hydrogen at six times atmospheric pressure at around 350 °C to form magnesium hydride. An ester and a metal salt are then added to complete the process. The result is a viscous grey goop that can then very simply be loaded into a cartridges like those you find your commercial adhesives and putties in at the a hardware store.
To release the energy, a plunger extrudes the pudding into a chamber, just like you squeeze out your sealer into that crack between the bath and the wall. In the chamber, it reacts with water piped in from a separate reservoir to release hydrogen at a dynamically controlled rate. The freshly released hydrogen then feeds the fuel cell to create electrical power to run an EV powertrain, or whatever other device the pudding will power.
Half of the hydrogen released derived from the water that the paste reacts with. Which also means that fuel cell by-product water can cycle back into the onboard reservoir. Powerpaste can also be replenished in several ways. Cars will be fuelled by standard filling lines with ‘relatively inexpensive equipment’, while scoters and domestic applications toasters, kettles and even drones, would be fuelled by injector-like canisters.
THERE ARE STILL A FEW QUESTIONS
Logistically, Powerpaste can trucked around in barrels or tankers and left just about anywhere without danger. Fraunhofer is already building a four-ton Powerpaste production plant to produce four tons of the stuff in the next year. It will run pilot programs and industry evaluation at the facility, where it already has a test power generator up and running on a bench in the lab.
There are questions. Like what happens to that spent magnesium? How much energy does this high temperature and pressure process require and what will that cost? Does that ten-time the energy number include the manufacturing process? How much water does the process require? And will this pudding really eliminate hydrogen’s notorious energy losses to rival a battery’s 90 percent efficiency?
All that said, Powerpaste may very well be that clean energy silver bullet that the world has so desperately been seeking. The next big thing will be how carmakers react … how long before say Toyota converts its sexy new generation Mirai to pudding power? And will this lead to a showroom charge to fuel cell cars?
If that is the case, this pudding called Powerpaste may very well be the fuel of the future…