A Major Breakthrough to Realize the Dream of Clean Energy

The human arsenal has always been expansive beyond all limits, and yet it hasn’t seen an element more significant than that desire of ours to grow on a consistent basis. We can claim what did because the stated desire has already got the world to hit upon some huge milestones, with technology emerging as quite a major member of the group. The reason why we hold technology in such a high regard is, by and large, predicated upon its skill-set, which guided us towards a reality that nobody could have ever imagined otherwise. Nevertheless, if we look beyond the surface for a second, it will become clear how the whole runner was also very much inspired from the way we applied those skills across a real world environment. The latter component, in fact, did a lot to give the creation a spectrum-wide presence, and as a result, initiate a full-blown tech revolution. Of course, this revolution then went on to scale up the entire human experience through some outright unique avenues, but even after achieving a feat so notable, technology will somehow continue to bring forth the right goods. The same has turned more and more evident in recent times, and assuming one new discovery ends up with the desired impact, it will only put that trend on a higher pedestal moving forward.

The researching team at Pennsylvania State University has successfully discovered a new technique, which involves using coal to store hydrogen gas and tackle a major roadblock in developing a clean energy supply chain. To understand the significance of this discovery, we must acknowledge how, despite the method’s clear potential in powering energy-intensive sectors like transportation, electricity generation and manufacturing, it remains a challenge to build a hydrogen infrastructure that can offer the masses an affordable and reliable energy source. The challenges, for instance, start from the very question of where to store hydrogen. The researching team, in response, analyzed eight types of coals from coalfields across the United States to better understand their sorption and diffusion potential and how much hydrogen they can hold. Going by the available details, all eight coals showed considerable sorption properties, with low-volatile bituminous coal from eastern Virginia and anthracite coal from eastern Pennsylvania pulling off two best performances in the test.

“We found that coal can be this geological hydrogen battery,” said Shimin Liu, associate professor of energy and mineral engineering at Penn State. “You could inject and store the hydrogen energy and have it there when you need to use it.”

Fair enough, just like methane sticks to the surface of the coal in a process called adsorption, injecting hydrogen into coal would cause that gas to absorb or stick to the coal. Such formations are able to stay in place because they have a layer of shale or mudstone on top that act as a seal keeping methane, or in this case hydrogen, sealed until needed to be extracted for use.

“A lot of people define coal as a rock, but it’s really a polymer,” Liu said. “It has high carbon content with a lot of small pores that can store much more gas. So coal is like a sponge that can hold many more hydrogen molecules compared to other non-carbon materials.”

For the future, though, the researchers plan to work on the dynamic diffusivity and dynamic permeability of coal, with both the features seemingly crucial in determining how quickly hydrogen can be injected and pumped back out.

“I think Penn State is the right place to do all this research—we have the coal reserves, we have natural gas, we have both the engineering and economic expertise at the University,” Liu said. “This is the logical place to do this.”

Copyrights © 2024. All Right Reserved. Engineers Outlook.