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The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) has awarded a grant totaling £1.1 million to a consortium made up of Ilika Technologies Ltd, Johnson Matthey plc, the University of Oxford and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The grant is funded from the autumn 2007 competition for collaborative research and development. The objective of the project is to further develop solid-state hydrogen storage materials, some of which were initially identified in an earlier project completed by the same consortium, in an earlier government funded project.

Hydrogen is considered by many analysts to be the most promising energy carrier in the long term and its pollution-free conversion into energy by fuel cells is a very attractive feature. One of the key technical hurdles to be overcome for the adoption of hydrogen is its safe and energy-efficient storage within compact containers. The use of lightweight metal powders, packed in containers to react with hydrogen to form stable hydrides, is a storage solution that continues to be of high interest around the world. Hydrogen is released from these powders under the gentle application of heat and would provide a compact means of supplying hydrogen to fuel cells in automobiles. Developing a metal powder that could combine with a sufficiently large amount of hydrogen is the main focus of the project at hand.

The project is being carried out over two years. Ilika is using its world-leading, proprietary high throughput synthesis and screening equipment to rapidly make and test candidate materials. More precise identification of the right type of metal powder takes place at the prestigious Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, including structural analysis carried out at the recently commissioned Diamond Light Source synchrotron. Promising materials are further developed at the University of Oxford and manufacturing routes are being assessed for commercial viability at Johnson Matthey