To succeed as alternatives to conventional cars and trucks, hydrogen-powered vehicles will need a safe, lightweight, compact, and cheap way to store their fuel. Now, theorists studying spherical, 60-carbon shells called buckyballs (SN: 5/20/06, p. 308: Available to subscribers at Feeling cagey) suggest that lithium atoms added to buckyball surfaces bestow on those molecules a remarkable capacity to store hydrogen.
The Department of Energy has proposed that by 2015, hydrogen-powered vehicles should hold hydrogen weighing no less than 9 percent of a storage system's total weight. Lithium-bedecked buckyballs could theoretically store up to 13 percent of their mass in hydrogen, says physicist Puru Jena of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
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