It may look like putty, this new ‘POWERPASTE’ from the Dresden-based Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Germany. But in reality, it is an energy cream that binds ordinarily gaseous hydrogen to solid materials. This makes it more usable for small vehicles such as electric cars, and even e-scooters and mopeds.

Smaller vehicles – up to and including cars – are not eligible for hydrogen drives at present as these need a rather large high-pressure tank, fuel cells and an electric motor. All of that will not fit onto a scooter or a moped. They’re more suited to airplanes, container ships or steel factories.

However, the Fraunhofer institute claims that an enormous amount of space can be saved with the power paste. And it is not terribly complicated.

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    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ifam-wasserstoffantriebe-fuer-e-scooter-und-co-bild-2-533x678.jpg
    Test setup for using the power paste, Photo Fraunhofer institute

    Magnesium

    The paste is mainly made up of powdered magnesium which together with hydrogen is converted under high pressure at a temperature of 350 degrees Celsius into magnesium hydride. ‘Esters’ and metal salts are subsequently added to this and then the paste is ready.

    Inside the vehicle, the cream is then mixed with plain water, after which hydrogen is released and converted into electricity for an electric motor in the fuel cell.

    Pilot plant

    According to Fraunhofer, the cream has an energy density greater than a comparative amount of gasoline. The paste is also easy to transport and sell in, for example, gas stations. One advantage is that it is much easier to refuel with than a traditional hydrogen tank.

    Fraunhofer consequently believes that the paste will eventually be suitable for larger vehicles and drones. Until that time, of course, there is still a long way to go. A pilot plant will first be set up this year that can produce 4 tons of the substance each year.

    Read our other articles on the sense and nonsense of hydrogen.

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    About the author

    Author profile picture Maurits Kuypers graduated as a macroeconomist from the University of Amsterdam, specialising in international work. He has been active as a journalist since 1997, first for 10 years on the editorial staff of Het Financieele Dagblad in Amsterdam, then as a freelance correspondent in Berlin and Central Europe. When it comes to technological innovations, he always has an eye for the financial feasibility of a project.