Scientists develop game-changing magnesium-hydrogen ‘battery’

By Ellsworth Dickson

Germany has already started on the Hydrogen Highway with a few hundred hydrogen-powered vehicles on its roads. However, hydrogen has its own particular challenges such as complete lack of infrastructure and the equipping of vehicles with reinforced storage tanks.

TRL 5 demonstrator of a power generator with a POWERPASTE cartridge and a 100 watt PEM fuel cell.

With that in mind, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden, Germany, have developed a unique hydrogen power technology that solves many of hydrogen’s problems.

The institute has developed what it has named POWERPASTE, a solid magnesium hydride that stores hydrogen in a chemical form and releases it on demand. The POWERPASTE comes in a paste and can be used for any kind of vehicle – even small scooters. Since POWERPASTE only begins to decompose at about 250˚C, it remains safe even if a scooter sits in the baking sun for hours.

No new infrastructure is needed. When a POWERPASTE cartridge is empty, it can be easily replaced at home, on the road or at any existing gas station, along with filling the water tank.. Remarkably, when water is added to the paste, a chemical reaction generates hydrogen gas but only half of the hydrogen actually originates from the paste. The rest is from the water! Free fuel.

To make the POWERPASTE, magnesium powder is combined with hydrogen to form a magnesium hydride. Don’t worry about range anxiety; the cartridge can take you as far as a gasoline vehicle and is quickly changed.

Fraunhofer IFAM is currently building a production plant for POWERPASTE at the Fraunhofer Project Center for Energy Storage and Systems ZESS. Set to go into operation this year, the plant will produce up to 4 tons of POWERPASTE per year.

Everything has to start somewhere – is this the start of something big? This will be an interesting story to follow.

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