Filling up at the pumps with hydrogen instead of petrol has become a real possibility

Filling up at the pumps with hydrogen instead of petrol has moved a step closer to reality with the launch of a new company which holds the technology to make it happen. Cella Energy Limited is a brand new spin-out company from STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. It is developing a novel technology that allows hydrogen to be stored in a cheap and practical way, making it suitable for widespread use as a

carbon-free alternative to petrol. Hydrogen, which produces only pure water when burned, is considered an ideal solution to cutting carbon emissions from petrol, which are estimated to cause 25 per cent of all carbon release. Until now, attempts to store it have not been consumer friendly so this has not been a viable option. Cella Energy Ltd, which already has one investor in specialist chemical company Thomas Swan & Co Ltd, who signed an agreement on 24 January 2011, believes it has found the answer. Working with the London Centre for Nanotechnology at University College London and University of Oxford, scientists from STFC’s ISIS neutron source have developed a way of making tiny micro-fibres 30 times smaller than a human hair. These form a tissue-like material that is safe to handle in air. The new material contains as much hydrogen for a given weight as the high pressure tanks currently used to store hydrogen and can also be made in the form of micro beads that can be poured and pumped like a liquid. It could be used to fill up tanks in cars and aeroplanes in a very similar way to current fuels, but crucially without producing the carbon emissions. This is the technology underpinning Cella Energy Ltd. “In some senses hydrogen is the perfect fuel; it has three times more energy than petrol per unit of weight, and when it burns it produces nothing but water. But the only way to pack it into a vehicle is to use very high pressures or very low temperatures, both of which are expensive to do. Our new hydrogen storage materials offer real potential for running cars, planes and other vehicles that currently use hydrocarbons on hydrogen, with little extra cost and no extra inconvenience to the driver”, said Professor Stephen Bennington, lead scientist on the project for STFC. Cella Energy Ltd, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 0QX, UK w © Copyright 2011 Cella Energy Ltd. Registered in England no. 07492148. All Rights Reserved. Stephen Voller, the new CEO of Cella Energy Ltd said; “Consumers want to be able to travel 300-400 miles before they have to refuel. And when they do have to fill up they want to be able to do it as quickly as possible. Existing hydrogen storage methods do not meet these consumer expectations, but the ones we are developing have the potential to do just this”. Tim Bestwick, Director STFC Innovations Limited said; “We’re delighted that Thomas Swan & Co Ltd has chosen to invest in Cella. We believe they will be a great partner with nearly 90 years of experience in making high performance chemical products including nanomaterials.”  Information:  Stephen Voller

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