New hydrogen optical sensors eliminate the risk of sparks: Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles – electric cars without plugs – safer –

Hydrogen as a clean, renewable alternative to fossil fuels is part of a sustainable energy future, and it’s already very real. However, lingering concerns about flammability have limited the widespread use of hydrogen as a power source for electric vehicles. Previous advancements have played down the risk, but new research from the University of Georgia is now putting that risk in the mirror.

Hydrogen vehicles can refuel much faster and go further without refueling than today’s electric vehicles, which use battery power. But one of the last hurdles to producing hydrogen is ensuring a safe method of detecting hydrogen leaks.

A new study published in Nature communications documents an inexpensive, spark-free optical hydrogen sensor that is more sensitive – and faster – than previous models.

“At present, most commercial hydrogen sensors detect the change of an electronic signal in active materials upon interaction with hydrogen gas, which can potentially induce hydrogen ignition. gaseous by electric sparks, ”said Tho Nguyen, associate professor of physics at Franklin College of Arts. and Sciences, co-principal investigator of the project. “Our spark-free optical hydrogen sensors detect the presence of hydrogen without electronics, which makes the process much safer.”

Not just for cars

Hydrogen energy has many more applications than powering electric vehicles, and flammability mitigation technologies are essential. Robust sensors for hydrogen leak detection and concentration control are important at all stages of the hydrogen economy, including production, distribution, storage and use in processing and petroleum production, fertilizers, metallurgical applications, electronics, environmental sciences, and health and safety. – related fields.

The three key issues associated with hydrogen sensors are response time, sensitivity, and cost. Current current technology for H2 optical sensors requires an expensive monochromator to record a spectrum, followed by analysis of a spectral shift comparison.

“With our intensity-based optical nano sensors, we’re going from sensing hydrogen at around 100 parts per million to 2 parts per million, at a cost of a few dollars for a sensing chip,” Tho said. “Our 0.8 second response time is 20% faster than the best available optical device currently reported in the literature.”

How it works

The new optical device is based on the nanofabrication of a nanosphere template covered with a layer of Palladium Cobalt alloy. The hydrogen present is quickly absorbed and then detected by an LED. A silicon detector records the intensity of the transmitted light.

“All metals tend to absorb hydrogen, but by finding the right elements with the right balance in the alloy and designing the nanostructure to amplify the subtle changes in light transmission after hydrogen absorption, we were able to establish a new benchmark for the speed and sensitivity of the latter. sensors can be, ”said George Larsen, principal investigator at Savannah River National Laboratory and co-principal investigator on the project. “While keeping the sensor platform as simple as possible.”

Research is primarily supported by the US Department of Energy and the research and development program led by the laboratories of SRNL.

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Material provided by University of Georgia. Original written by Alan Flurry. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.

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