As the world tries to grapple with how we are going to move away from the internal combustion engine, battery-powered electric vehicles appear to be taking the main stage. And while these vehicles have proven to be more and more capable in recent years, there are still inherent issues with this idea. Most notable among these challenges are the sourcing of rare earth metals for battery production, as well as the infrastructure changes that need to take place across the world for these cars to become viable for the masses. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, such as the Hyperion XP-1 (pictured above) are another alternative that have been gaining some traction, but these too come with a litany of challenges. That said, some scientists in Germany have just created a different alternative in the form of some hydrogen paste called Powerpaste. And it could revolutionize the industry.
Designed by the folks at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden, this simply looking goop could change how we generate power moving forwards. According to Popular Mechanics, Powerpaste is made from mixing hydrogen, magnesium, ester, and metal salts together to form a sludge that is stable at room temperature. In fact, the stuff stays safe at temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, while providing a surprising amount of energy density.
The hydrogen paste is stored in cartridges that are almost like batteries, and are combined with water to power a fuel cell. What is interesting about the paste is the fact that half of the hydrogen released by the reaction comes from the water itself. By controlling the rate a which the paste is combined with water, you can manage energy production at a variable rate.
While this hydrogen paste isn’t yet being stuck into vehicles, it very well could be used for this process. When compared to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles of today, this new product offers a much safer and more easily transportable alternative. Furthermore, the vast majority of fuel-grade hydrogen that we produce today comes as a byproduct of fossil fuel production, which is the very thing we are working to get away from. While “clean” hydrogen costs a significant amount of money to produce, this process could help to make production more cost effective.
It is still somewhat perplexing that governments around the world have put all their eggs in the battery electric vehicle basket. It is certainly true that we already have a good grasp on the technology at play there, but it’s not like mining the entire planet is all that responsible either. As we move forwards and come up with maintainable solutions for transportation, perhaps Powerpaste will become a key part of our future.