New Combinatorial Method for Identifying and Characterizing Promising H2 Storage Materials

Jose Michael

New Combinatorial Method for Identifying and Characterizing Promising H2 Storage Materials

A researcher at VU University Amsterdam has developed a new thin film optical combinatorial approach—hydrogenography—that greatly facilitates the identification and characterization of new hydrogen storage materials.

The method is based on large optical changes that occur in metals upon the absorption of hydrogen. About ten years ago, researchers at the VU discovered that certain materials lose their reflection by absorbing hydrogen. Dr. Robin Gremaud applied this basic characteristic to analyse simultaneously the efficacy of thousands of different combinations of the metals magnesium, titanium and nickel. Traditional methods require separate testing for each alloy.

Gremaud found that with a straight-forward optical setup, the hydrogenation of thousands of potential hydrogen storage materials deposited as thin film on a single substrate can be monitored and compared simultaneously.

Combinatorial research—the synthesis and characterization of a large number of compounds with different compositions in parallel—has been very effective in biochemical and pharmaceutical research.

Only recently these techniques were rediscovered in the field of materials science and engineering, as structure-property relations plays an essential role in materials science and functional materials become increasingly complex.

...As the understanding of hydride materials developed and their limitations for an application in the automotive sector became clear, attention shifted away from simple binary or ternary hydride systems to compounds or composites consisting of multiple elements. However, the number of possible combinations grows factorially, and with all the parameters to be incorporated, a nearly infinite parameter space opens. The search for new hydrogen storage materials is thus necessarily time consuming. Either a lengthy ball-milling procedure or a complicated chemical synthesis is needed to produce the necessary nano-grained materials.

...The use of thin films to explore new metal-hydride storage options is at first sight not obvious, given the fact that practical systems designed to store large quantities of hydrogen will require kilograms of (powdered) materials. However, thin-film combinatorial methods are ideally suited for a fast and efficient exploration and a speed of analysis that are out of reach for bulk chemical methods.

—Gremaud 2008

Gremaud is the first to use this method for measuring hydrogen absorption. The British company Ilika in Southampton is interested in building a hydrogen analyser using this technique. Gremaud’s research was funded by NWO Chemical Sciences as part of the National Program Sustainable Hydrogen.


  • Hydrogenography A thin film optical combinatorial study of hydrogen storage materials (Gremaud 2008)

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