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Chickens could 'power hydrogen cars'

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Leccy Tech A team of university scientists have claimed that the future of automotive hydrogen storage lies in birds, or, to be precise – chickens.

The secret lies in chicken feathers, according to Dr Richard Wool, Professor of chemical engineering at the University of Delaware, and their ability to absorb high amounts of hydrogen when specially treated.

Now we're not chicken scientists, but Wool and his university research team reckon that their ongoing project has shown that heat treating chicken feathers causes a protein called keratin to form hollow carbon microtubes.

These tubes then increase the surface areas of the feathers, enabling them to absorb more H2.

The result is carbonised chicken feather fibres, which Wool has argued can absorb as much or perhaps even more H2 than carbon nanotubes or metal hydrides – two alternative H2 storage methods.

Naturally, we must take Wool on his word regarding the technical aspects of his chicken feather-based H2 storage technology. But he’s also claimed that a chicken feather H2 storage tank would only add about £120 ($200/€142) to the price of a car.

By comparison, he said that producing a 20-gallon hydrogen fuel tank using metal hydrides would cost around £18,000 ($30,000/€21,300), while making one with carbon nanotubes would cost a dizzying £3.3m ($5.5m/€3.9m).

Wool’s not out of the chicken coop yet, though. He’s estimated that it would currently take a 75-gallon capacity chicken feather tank to power a car for around 300 miles.

This compares poorly with the Honda FCX Clarity, which can go for 270 miles on a far smaller tank, albeit one containing H2 compressed at 5000psi. ®

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