Joint Centers of Excellence Program

HIgh Density Hydrogen Storage via Covalent Bonds and Hydrocarbon Extension (Domain 1, Project 1)

Hydrogen is presently seen as a strong contender to be the next major fuel source for energy generation, supplementing and perhaps eventually replacing our current reliance on fossil fuels. In order for hydrogen to be a practical alternative to fossil fuels, efficient and effective hydrogen storage and release mechanisms need to be realized. Effective hydrogen storage and generation have been highly researched and debated topics as a result of (i) current limitations of storage vessels to allow small footprint fuel tanks, and (ii) current storage methods which require complicated systems to regulate the safe release of the high pressure hydrogen in small and controlled quantities. The production of hydrogen by molecular dehydrogenation represents an intriguing idea where small saturated molecules are decomposed under very mild conditions to produce hydrogen gas (fuel) and unsaturated hydrocarbon byproducts. Although these reactions have been known for some time they require the use of unstable transition metal complexes, which have relatively short catalyst lifetimes and can easily decompose upon exposure to air. Newly developed technologies in nanoporous coordination polymers (NCPs) could potentially address these catalyst stability issues. The fusion of the ideas of dehydrogenation, hydrogen generation through decomposition of small molecule hydrocarbons, and NCPs which contain and protect highly active dehydrogenation catalysts could solve the problems associated with hydrogen generation and storage. The approach of using NCPs as architectures for more complex molecules, specifically transition metal catalysts, could have a very broad impact in the field of energy generation by enhancing (1) hydrogen fuel production, (2) catalyst stability, and therefore (3) catalytic activity, turnover, and material lifetime. Not only does this project consider the generation of hydrogen as an alternative fuel, but it also considers the use of the by-products from hydrogen generation to generate a multitude of hydrocarbons that are compatible with the current forms of energy generation.