Venkatram Mereddy, Associate Professor, UMD-Chemistry and Biochemistry
Many remote traffic signals lack access to a regular power supply and so rely on batteries that must be changed frequently. A hydrogen fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, offering a clean and high-efficiency energy source to circumvent the problems associated with conventional batteries. One major drawback that limits its utility, however, is its use of compressed metal cylinders as a source of hydrogen. Chemical-based hydrogen production can provide a compact and low-pressure storage option for the controlled release of hydrogen gas in large quantities. The hydrogen-based fuel cells can also be used as a backup power source at critical traffic signals to prevent accidents during power outages. The other possible applications include alternating-traffic signs, directional signals, speed-limit signs, blinkers in series, and warning blinkers. This project explored novel chemical-based hydrogen storage materials, efficient generation of hydrogen, and the recycling of spent materials. Several boron-based chemical hydrides were investigated as hydrogen storage materials. These hydrides offer an attractive solution in the quest to find materials that are safe and compact and that readily provide large quantities of hydrogen on demand. The researchers generated hydrogen from several boron hydrides, including sodium borohydride (SBH) and ammonia-borane (AB), utilizing solvents such as water and alcohols under catalytic and noncatalytic conditions.