While carbon and its extensive uses in various forms like nanotubes,
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
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
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.