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Hydrogen Storage Collaboration Between Sigma-Aldrich and Ilika Technologies to Scale-up and Commercialize Boron Hydride Materials

Published: Monday, July 25, 2011
Last Updated: Monday, July 25, 2011
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Materials show promise as high energy, low pressure hydrogen source.

Aldrich Materials Science, a strategic technology initiative of Sigma-Aldrich Corporation has announced that it has signed an agreement to collaborate on the scale-up and commercialization of next generation hydrogen-storage materials with Ilika plc, an advanced cleantech materials discovery company.

Both companies believe this enterprise will become a vital component of the energy industry's efforts to develop consumer-friendly hydrogen storage materials for fuel cell and clean combustion technology.

Hydrogen represents an attractive carrier of energy as its combustion or direct conversion to electricity via a fuel cell does not lead to the emission of carbon dioxide.

In addition, hydrogen can be used as an alternative energy carrier to battery technology since the energy density of hydrogen can be substantially higher than that of batteries.

The main criteria for hydrogen storage for transport purposes, as outlined by the US Freedom Car Initiative (, are to supply enough hydrogen to enable a driving range of approximately 500 km, to charge and recharge at near room temperature and to provide hydrogen at rates fast enough for vehicular operation - from cars to trains.

Current prototype applications use very high pressure compressed hydrogen or cryogenically cooled liquid hydrogen. These methods consume a significant percentage of the energy content in their compression and conversion and both raise safety concerns.

Ilika's storage solution is a solid metal hydride, which exists as a powder stored in a cylinder at moderate pressure and stable at room temperature. When warmed to moderate temperatures, hydrogen is released for use as fuel.

To be economically viable, the target weight percentage of hydrogen stored in such a material has been set at 6% by the US Department of Energy. Current commercially available hydride materials can achieve up to 2.3 weight % of hydrogen.

The hydride materials being verified and scaled-up by Aldrich Materials Science can potentially store up to 10 weight % of hydrogen, reversibly.

Commenting on the collaboration, Ilika's CEO, Graeme Purdy, said: "This agreement is a great example of how Ilika, together with our partners, develops innovative materials that solve complex industrial challenges and shares in the commercial upside that these technological advances make possible. Sigma-Aldrich® is a world leader with renowned capability in the field of materials science. Through its Aldrich Materials Science initiative, Sigma-Aldrich possesses state-of-the-art integrated capabilities in hydrogen storage materials for fuel cell technology, including material development (mechanochemistry), manufacturing, application and evaluation, and have agreed to enter into a collaboration to scale-up Ilika's metal-hydride materials. In particular, their mechanochemistry know-how and processing is a proven tool for the preparation of novel materials. We are very pleased to be working with them."

R&D Manager for Aldrich Materials Science, Viktor Balema, added: "We have been very impressed by Ilika's unique high-throughput discovery capabilities, which are very complementary to our scale-up facilities. The collaboration, done as part of our custom research services, creates the unique opportunity to rapidly move from discovery to first commercialization, with the potential of making innovative energy storage materials available to end users in a short period of time. Through collaborative custom research projects, we aim to enable materials innovation in the alternative energy, electronics and biomedical markets."

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