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The hydrogen-magnesium battery is now a reality: decades of testing and a unique feature

The hydrogen-magnesium battery is the result of decades of effort. It is now a reality and has a unique characteristic. The use of hydrogen in engines and batteries has been around since the early 19th century, but is only now gaining momentum as a new alternative in zero-emission automobiles . We have already seen it shine in the two-engine hydrogen car or in the water engine.

Several centuries ago, French politician and inventor François Isaac de Rivaz attempted to operate a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine. However, although the world has always been aware of the existence of hydrogen, only in recent years has its implementation accelerated. Human use of fossil fuels has created a pollution gap that we must fill.

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This is why new ways of obtaining energy and the decarbonization of various sectors, including automobiles, are sought almost desperately. In this context, the development of hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen engines and the proliferation of new production, storage and marketing techniques have become essential.

A hydrogen-magnesium battery ready to change the automotive scene

A team of Korean researchers from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), coordinated by Professor Hyunchul Oh, has created a battery capable of storing H on a large scale. An invention that we haven’t seen until now.

This is a new battery that could be adapted to different means of transport, including sea and land transport. The researchers, members of the UNIST Department of Chemistry, have developed a nanoporous structure of magnesium borohydride, a superconducting material previously used in the design of cables. However, its interaction and H-related properties were not known.

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This magnesium structure is capable of accumulating a considerable amount of hydrogen molecules, reaching a density that can double the current storage capacity of hydrogen in its cryogenic liquid form. In other words, this new material makes it possible to achieve a storage capacity of 144 g/L (grams per liter), while current storage processes only achieve 70 g/L.

“This is a paradigm shift in hydrogen storage, providing a compelling alternative to traditional approaches,” says Hyunchul Oh.

Advantages of the hydrogen-magnesium battery

Until now, no proposal appeared to outperform current lithium-based batteries used in the auto industry and other sectors, even though magnesium’s properties have been studied for decades.

This new material created at UNIST could improve the hydrogen storage capacity in vehicles that use it. A concept that could be applied in the Toyota Mirai or the Hyundai Nexo, which use hydrogen fuel cells. Another promising aspect is the production of batteries that could offer significantly greater autonomy than conventional batteries used in various means of transportation.

What’s happening with this battery is the result of a study published in Nature Chemistry and largely funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) and the Korean Ministry of Science and Technology.

Concretely, this could be the first step in the development of a battery that would put an end to the current domination of lithium-ion batteries. This would revolutionize the automobile industry, and many others, at least in terms of vehicle autonomy.

The hydrogen-magnesium battery is here, after decades of attempts. Only time will tell us how far it will go. In the meantime, hydrogen continues to gain traction with other proposals such as the first hydrogen roads.