Ohio Patent of the Month – November 2021

Hydrogen-based fuel cells used to power vehicles have a key drawback – they lack an acceptable lightweight and safe hydrogen storage medium. There are four methods for hydrogen storage currently in use but each of these have further limitations including low storage capacity, difficulty in storing and releasing hydrogen, high costs, and potential explosion danger. With that in mind, Nanotek Instruments, Inc. has designed an alternative storage structure, using graphene.

Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms, tightly bound in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice. This is considered a nanostructured carbon material and has the potential for hydrogen adsorption storage. The characteristics that make it uniquely qualified for this include:

  • Low weight
  • Good mechanical stability
  • High surface area
  • Large surface-to-volume ratio
  • Tunable surface chemical functionality

Nanotek’s design uses a powder mass of multiple porous graphene balls. One of the balls has a series of graphene sheets with a catalyst. The catalyst could be either nanoparticles or a coating. The catalyst serves to significantly increase the capacity of gas storage of the graphene-based materials.

Nanotek has pioneered their own proprietary production method to create graphene materials. Part of this process involves direct ultrasonication to achieve a fluid exfoliation of graphite particles. For the use in hydrogen storage, the graphene balls are produced to be both porous and pristine with essentially 0% oxygen. Depending on the particular scenario, they may also create them to be nitrogenated or fluorinated. Ultimately, the graphene balls are used in a gas storage device, where the powder mass acts as a gas-absorbing, gas-adsorbing, gas-capturing, or gas-storing medium. The catalyst enhances this capability and storage capacity.

Are you developing new technology for an existing application? Did you know your development work could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and you can receive up to 14% back on your expenses? Even if your development isn’t successful your work may still qualify for R&D credits (i.e. you don’t need to have a patent to qualify). To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today or check out our free online eligibility test.

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