Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

NaBH4 – The Vice-Admiral Has a Message for Dutch Parliament

Zoutzuur = hydrochloric acid (HCl), UPW = ultra pure water, waterstofgas = hydrogen gas, mengkamer = mixing chamber

There are many people who claim to have found the solution for the world’s energy problems as there is no lack of people aiming for their moment of fame. Here we have a Dutch innovator Gerard Lugtigheid, who claims to have found the solution of the pressing energy storage problem. What is special in this is that he gets the support of heavy-weights with a reputation to lose.

Focal point of excitement is the hydrogen absorption capacity of a powder with chemical formula NaBH4 or Sodium Borohydride. The properties of the substance are not entirely new and were the subject of an investigation earlier, notably by the US government, Department Of Energy (DOE). In 2007 a conclusion was drawn with far-reaching consequences:

[] – Go/No-Go Recommendation for Sodium Borohydride for On-Board Vehicular Hydrogen Storage (2007)

The hydrogen storage technology considered for the hydrolysis of sodium borohydride (NaBH4) has clearly not met all the 2007 targets. In addition, the Panel sees no promising path forward for this technology to reach all the 2010 targets. Based on its charter, then, the Panel unanimously recommends a No-Go decision.

An unnoted Dutch hospital technician, while busy with the development of a manual resiscitator/cigaret size H2 nebulizer, collaterally got in touch with the topic of chemical storage of hydrogen and proceeded where the DOE had left off:

[] – Gerard Lugtigheid

What did he achieve? Well: storage of twice the amount of hydrogen in a powder in a given volume at ambient pressure and temperature as compared to pure hydrogen at 700 bar. Add ultra-pure water to the powder, as well as tiny quantities of a catalyst (HCl) and you obtain a steady stream of hydrogen that is easy to control:

[] – Hydrogen generator vessel for hydrolysis of hydrides

This is the reaction that releases the hydrogen:

NaBH4 + 4 H2O ⇒ 4 H2 + NaB(OH)4

This reaction approaches a remarkable 20 % gravimetric efficiency when calculated in relation to the weight of the NaBH4 alone, and in excess of 6 wt.% when calculated in relation to both water and NaBH4.

However the reaction requires a catalyst. Without the catalyst, sodium borohydride dissolves in water without noticeable hydrogen generation. With inadequate catalysts, on the other hand, the reaction results in the hydrated forms of borax, which significantly decreases the overall gravimetric efficiency and increases the cost and energy input in the regeneration process.

So, 20% of the weight of the sodium borohydride powder is hydrogen, or 6% if the water is included in the calculation. 2 kg of water are required to completely neutralize 1 kg of sodium borohydride. 6% of 2+1=3 kg is 180 gram. 1 kg hydrogen contains 33.3 kWh. So, 3 kg of fuel contains 5.94 kWh. Compare that with a conventional car battery of 15 kg and 1.2 kWh energy content. That would an energy density gain of factor 25. An Opel Ampera/Chevvy Bolt manages 8 km/kWh. In other words, 2 liter of water and 1 kg of hydrogen-powder will bring you slightly less than 50 km. Or a standard 60 kg fuel will bring you 1000 km. Bye-bye car battery-powered e-vehicles.

Regarding the speed of hydrogen release: 0.3g of NaBH4 + 10 mg of the catalyst + 0.6g of tap water generates hydrogen flow of excess of 20 ml/min and can be scaled-up proportionally. The speed of release can be controlled by the amount of catalyst added.

The findings are so spectacular that they have drawn the attention and confirmation from Dutch vice-admiral Jan-Willem Kelder, as well as from TNO, a sort of Dutch counterpart of the German Fraunhofer Institute and the TU-Eindhoven. The Dutch government and ministry of economic affairs in particular are also well aware of the development. Meanwhile patents have been granted in America, Japan, Russia, China and a few other countries. In Europe however, patent applications are still pending.

[] – Letter to Dutch parliament

The vice-admiral has put his name on the following presentation of 27 slides, giving additional information about the findings:

[] – H2Fuel: Hydrogen energy carrier

The reaction is slightly different:

NaBH4 + 2H2O = 8H + NaBO2

The residu NaBO2 can be recycled back into NaBH4.

The process is inexpensive and can be used in the automotive, shipping, and aviation industries, as large-scale storage for electrical energy, heat generation, industrial applications, etc.

The inventor Gerard Lugtigheid telling about his invention in a laboratory setting (Dutch language):

Lugtigheid explains that the core difference between the work of the DOE and his work is the addition of Ultra-Pure Water. That’s what greatly enhances the amount of hydrogen that can be extracted from the powder. At [2:20] activator fluid is let lose on the powder and immediately large amounts of hydrogen are released from the powder and pushed away the water in the long glass tube. The amount of hydrogen produced can be accurately controlled by the amount of activator fluid added to the powder.

[deepresource] – H2Fuel – Hydrogen Powder NaBH4

Mierenzuur = formic acid, ammoniak = ammonia (NH3), waterstofgas = hydrogen gas, poeder = powder

Washington, D.C. (March 26, 2007) – Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Mullen presents Vice Adm. Jan Willem Kelder. Commander, Royal Netherlands Navy a commemorative plaque during an office call at the Pentagon on March 26, 2007. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (AW) Chad J. McNeeley.

[] – Independent Report to the Dutch Government

A few figures:

– 98% of the potential hydrogen can be actually released.
– In a 60 liter tank, 6.6 kg hydrogen can be stored
– The cost of 1 kg hydrogen from h2-fuel is 5.5 euro
– Cost NaBH4 is 0.89 euro/kg in China; shipping cost to Rotterdam 1.03 euro/kg.
– Cost UPW if 6.08 euro/m3

[] – Ultrapuur water
[] – US H2Fuel patent
[] – De programmaraad stelt voor: H2Fuel
[] – Advanced Chemical Hydrogen Storage and Generation System
[] – Ultra pure water
[] – Test met waterstof bij Plant One Rotterdam
[] – New experiment makes hydrogen usable in cars

Brandstofcel = fuel cel
Gebruikte brandstof – spent fuel

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