Burress, J. et al. Hydrogen storage in engineered carbon nanospaces. Nanotechnology 20, 204026 (2009).
It is shown how appropriately engineered nanoporous carbons provide materials for reversible hydrogen storage, based on physisorption, with exceptional storage capacities (~80 g H2/kg carbon, ~50 g H2/liter carbon, at 50 bar and 77 K). Nanopores generate high storage capacities (a) by having high surface area to volume ratios, and (b) by hosting deep potential wells through overlapping substrate potentials from opposite pore walls, giving rise to a binding energy nearly twice the binding energy in wide pores. Experimental case studies are presented with surface areas as high as 3100 m2 g−1, in which 40% of all surface sites reside in pores of width ~0.7 nm and binding energy ~9 kJ mol−1, and 60% of sites in pores of width>1.0 nm and binding energy ~5 kJ mol−1. The findings, including the prevalence of just two distinct binding energies, are in excellent agreement with results from molecular dynamics simulations. It is also shown, from statistical mechanical models, that one can experimentally distinguish between the situation in which molecules do (mobile adsorption) and do not (localized adsorption) move parallel to the surface, how such lateral dynamics affects the hydrogen storage capacity, and how the two situations are controlled by the vibrational frequencies of adsorbed hydrogen molecules parallel and perpendicular to the surface: in the samples presented, adsorption is mobile at 293 K, and localized at 77 K. These findings make a strong case for it being possible to significantly increase hydrogen storage capacities in nanoporous carbons by suitable engineering of the nanopore space.