IP Profile: Reversible hydrogen storage using organic compounds

The technology is a novel organic material able to absorb, store and desorb hydrogen at low cost, such that it can be made available to a fuel cell or any other end use.

Organization: University of Geneva, Switzerland
Inventor: Dr Hans Hagemann
Primary market: automotive, telecom, energy
Technology contact: Matthias Kuhn, Unitec, Technology Transfer office, University of Geneva

The technology is a novel organic material able to absorb, store and desorb hydrogen at low cost, such that it can be made available to a fuel cell or any other end use.

IP overview Courtesy of University of Geneva, Switzerland

Fuel Cell Vehicle

While Clean Tech investments are soaring, applications for fuel cells are appearing in our daily lives, like hydrogen fueled cars. Several reasons however prevent these applications to become mainstream, some of which are unfortunately still of a technological nature: fuel cell efficiency is still moderate, although improving fast; hydrogen production remains an energy intensive process weather it is processed by hydrolysis, methanization or other means; hydrogen storage remains a challenge due to its low density and the difficulty of pressurizing it. Currently, the mainstream idea for storing hydrogen is compression up to 750 bars, but it presents significant safety and manufacturing challenges. Other hydrogen storage materials, like metal hydrides can be heavy and expensive.

Our novel technology comprises a material that overcomes many of these weaknesses: it is light, un-expensive and can carry up to 6.5% of hydrogen in weight, which is more than what a 750 bars pressurized bottle can hold. It is patented in the US.

Hans Hagemann

Hans Hagemann’s idea came from completely outside his mainstream research; while he was discussing the properties of some organic molecules, he imagined new functionalities. Hans’ research interests revolve around the structural and spectroscopic properties of mineral compounds. Among these, he studies potential inorganic hydrogen storage materials.

Applications for hydrogen storage devices are endless. They span from automobile tanks, to mobile phone batteries. All of them require high hydrogen storage capabilities, safe adsorption, storage and release conditions, favorable adsorption and desorption kinetics and cost effectiveness. The market size for the hydrogen economy is huge. For automotive only: by 2010 it is expected that 5% of all light duty vehicles will be hydrogen fueled, which represents a USD 15.5 B market. Oil price levels are making alternative solutions more and more attractive and will contribute to taking this market to the mainstream.

This organic hydrogen storage technology was presented at the TechConnect Conference in Boston in June 2008. It grabbed the attention of many people both at the exhibition boot and during the IP presentation. Unitec, the technology transfer office of the University of Geneva and Dr Hageman’s team are now proceeding to prototyping and characterization. Unitec has been responding to many enquiries from potential partners and signed NDAs with leading industries. Market players interested in this technology may contact Matthias Kuhn.

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