New Sensor Could Make Hydrogen Powered Cars Viable

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When you look at hydrogen as an energy carrier, it’s got great environmental credentials. The only emission there is water. Good ol’ H2O. Perfect for the planet! But, hydrogen does come with some dangers that make putting safeguards in place critical.

  • Fastest available, new sensor enables detection of hydrogen 0.1 percent of hydrogen in less than a second

  • Based on an optical phenomenon called plasmon

  • Could help adoption of clean energy hydrogen powered vehicles

To produce hydrogen, electricity from wind or solar power splits the two hydrogen atoms from the oxygen. Mixed with oxygen again, hydrogen becomes very flammable. In order to safeguard against the possibility of explosion, sensors are needed to detect leaks. Up until this point, available sensors couldn’t meet the strict requirements of the automotive industry: capable of detecting 0.1 percent hydrogen in the air in less than a second.

The Toyota Mirai is a hydrogen powered vehicle.

Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden just developed the first optical nanosensor that meets the future performance targets set out for hydrogen powered vehicles. Published in the scientific journal Nature Materials, the discovery leverages an optical phenomenon called a plasmon. It occurs when metal nanoparticles are illuminated and capture visible light. As a result, when a dangerous combo of gasses builds up, the sensor changes color.

The nanosensor is surrounded by a protective plastic to prevent other molecules from coming in and causing it to malfunction. In addition, that plastic accelerates the uptake of hydrogen gas so it can be detected more quickly. Don’t you just love two for one deals!

Not only is this new nanosensor the fastest one available at the moment, it also doesn’t have to be recalibrated as often. It’s that protective plastic piece claiming the honors again.

With this superstar nanosensor now available, the future for clean, hydrogen powered vehicles just got a lot brighter.

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