Engineers at the University of New South Wales have developed a light weight, nano-engineered material that can store and release hydrogen, overcoming a major hurdle to its use as an alternative fuel source.

The engineers have synthesised nanoparticles of sodium borohydride and encased these inside nickel shells. The unique "core-shell" nanostructure has remarkable hydrogen storage properties, including the ability to release energy at much lower temperatures than previously observed.

Borohydrides were known to be effective storage materials for hydrogen but it was believed that once the energy was released it could not be reabsorbed.

However, Dr Kondo-Francois Aguey-Zinsou, lead author of the research paper, says that “By controlling the size and architecture of these structures we can tune their properties and make them reversible – this means they can release and reabsorb hydrogen. We now have a way to tap into all these borohydride materials, which are particularly exciting for application on vehicles because of their high hydrogen storage capacity.”