Watch out carbon-based batteries, silicon still has some juice left after all.

While carbon and its extensive uses in various forms like nanotubes, graphene and buckyballs has been receiving scads of research and media time, another element, hydrogen, has made a consistent showing for its use as an alternative fuel. The promise of clean cars and long-lasting batteries has piqued the interest of our electric society. The two together have been shown to hold some incredible promise for powering all sorts of devices.

Carbon has also been threatening to dethrone silicon from some of its greatest conquests, such as the integrated circuit and the transistor. While many argue that carbon computers are years if not decades off, silicon may not be useless to electronics in the future either. Chinese researchers, led by Dapeng Cao, claim that the ultimate hydrogen storage mechanism for use in fuel cells may not be carbon nanotubes as previously thought, but rather silicon nanotubes.

In their simulations, silicon nanotubes absorbed hydrogen molecules more efficiently than carbon under normal fuel cell operating conditions.

Cao's team's calculations are important because carbon-based nanotubes are falling short of the U.S. Department of Energy's hydrogen storage goals for fuel cells. The DoE is looking for something better and silicon may be it. The new calculations will ultimately help determine if silicon nanotubes can meet their expectations.

Though a hydrogen economy is likely still far into the future due to infrastructure costs, recent advances in fuel technology as well as hydrogen production are helping to keep research and development moving forward.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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