UK’s Cella Energy Develops Hydrogen ‘Micro Beads’ That Could Fuel Cars for $1.50 Per Gallon

by , 03/16/11

hydrogen fuel, hydrogen micro beads, hydrogen production, world's oil reserves, dangers of nuclear power

With social unrest in the Middle East and North Africa raising more concerns over our reliance on fossil fuels, and the horrific earthquake in Japan underscoring the dangers of nuclear power, we are reminded once again of the need to diversify our energy sources. Hydrogen has been touted as one of the most promising replacements for conventional transport fuels for many years, but the logistics involved in storing and transporting the gas have presented numerous barriers – until now. Fresh from winning $64,000 worth of funding from Shell’s low-carbon technology contest, UK-based Cella Energy recently revealed an innovative, inexpensive and safe method for storing hydrogen. Using nanotechnology, Cella has developed ‘micro beads’ – 30 times smaller than a grain of sand – that can trap and release hydrogen when heated. And because the beads are small enough to flow like liquid, refuelling could even be done at any gas station.

hydrogen fuel, hydrogen micro beads, hydrogen production, world's oil reserves, dangers of nuclear power

What’s more at $1.50 per gallon, and with one tank capable of powering an average car for 300-400 miles, the benefits don’t stop at the environment. “In some senses hydrogen is the perfect fuel,” says Professor Stephen Bennington, head of the scientific team behind the fuel. “It has three times more energy than gasoline per unit, can be used in a standard combustion engine, and when it burns it produces nothing but water.” The micro beads can also be used as an additive to conventional gasoline. Because so much hydrogen production occurs at oil refineries it would be possible to seamlessly integrate Cella’s technology into the supply chain for conventional fuels. The micro-beads can even be returned to oil refineries where they could be refuelled using existing hydrogen production facilities.

The fact that water is the only by-product of burned hydrogen means that once the first commercially viable technology is ready, it will completely revolutionize the world’s transport industry – over the next 20 years 90% of the increase in oil demand will come from the transport sector. Cella boss Stephen Voller believes his micro bead technology could be for sale at gas stations in less than five years, keeping the world’s oil reserves deep underground where they belong.

Images courtesy of Cella Energy and Manufacturing Digital

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  1. PeterH April 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    This is exciting -however we must be cautious of the oil companies or front companies financed by oil producers. This has to be the best oportunity to give our children hope for the future. Cella we are watching you. Do the right thing …..

  2. dpeilow March 21, 2011 at 9:59 am

    This article is full of straw men.

    Firstly, while you correctly say that we need to diversify our energy sources, hydrogen isn’t an energy source but a carrier like electricity. The fact is it has to be made from either water or natural gas and that takes a lot of energy to do. So moving to hydrogen will use more energy, something we can’t afford to waste.

    Secondly, burning hydrogen in combustion engines does not “just make water” – various harmful nitrogen compounds are still made. You have to burn it in expensive fuel cells to only have water coming out the tailpipe.

    Thirdly, while hydrogen is currently a by-product of the refining process and thus could potentially be priced artificially low, once lots of people made the switch it would no longer be a by-product because there would be low or no demand for petrol. Thus the hydrogen would have to be specifically made and you would see then see the true price – more than petrol. I’m sure big oil plans to sell by-product hydrogen on the cheap (which in fact today gets used in fertilizer and food production, manufacturing and for rocket fuel, to name a few uses) the upshot will be that we will still be tied to the offering of a few very large and power companies. This is true regardless of how the hydrogen is delivered, micro-beads or otherwise.

  3. caeman March 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    And when this technology does dominate, and only one company continues to own the patents and rights for this new super-fuel, will it remain at $1.50 a gallon, or will greed take-over and prices rocket, leading to a call of a return to oil?

  4. dang8 March 16, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    How much do you want to bet that this will never see the light of day… Oil companies are making record profits from the sludge underground… Why would they let anyone make something that would wean the people off of their black gold.

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