Scientists at the University of Delaware say they have developed a new hydrogen storage method that can hold vast amounts of hydrogen at a far lower cost than other hydrogen storage systems under consideration.
The researchers used chicken feather fibers, which they said are mostly composed of keratin, a natural protein that forms strong, hollow tubes. When heated, the protein strengthen its structure and becomes more porous, increasing its surface area. The net result is carbonized chicken feather fibers, which can absorb as much or perhaps more hydrogen than carbon nanotubes or metal hydrides, two other materials being studied for their hydrogen storage potential.
"Carbonized chicken feather fibers have the potential to dramatically improve upon existing methods of hydrogen storage and perhaps pave the way for the practical development of a truly hydrogen-based energy economy," says Richard P. Wool, professor of chemical engineering and director of the University's Affordable Composites from Renewable Resources (ACRES) program.Carbonized chicken feathers, according to Wool, would only add about $200 to the price of a car. By comparison, a 20-gallon hydrogen fuel tank that uses carbon nanotubes could cost $5.5 million; one that uses metal hydrides could cost up to $30,000.
Wool estimates that it would take a 75-gallon tank to go 300 miles in a car using carbonized chicken feather fibers to store hydrogen.