Research highlight

Switchable storage

Nature Chemistry

March 19, 2012

A catalyst that can reversibly use carbon dioxide and hydrogen to store energy is reported online in Nature Chemistry this week. The catalyst converts these simple compounds into formic acid, a promising hydrogen-storage medium, and also catalyses the reaction to re-release the hydrogen. Although using hydrogen as a fuel is highly desirable because of its clean nature, it suffers from many drawbacks such as safety risks and transport problems. Storing it as a gas or in solid materials does not fully alleviate the transport concerns, but the current fuel infrastructure - tankers, pipelines, gas pumps - is well suited to a liquid solution. Jonathan Hull, Yuichiro Himeda, Etsuko Fujita and colleagues’ catalyst is energy efficient and green, working under mild conditions and using just water as the solvent. The parts of the catalyst that surround the central iridium metal atom are able to control whether it produces or consumes hydrogen, because they are sensitive to the pH of the solution.

doi: 10.1038/nchem.1295

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