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This article was published on March 3, 2021

Crazy scientists think weird and gloopy hydrogen ‘toothpaste’ is the fuel of the future


Crazy scientists think weird and gloopy hydrogen ‘toothpaste’ is the fuel of the future
Matthew Beedham
Story by

Matthew Beedham

Editor, SHIFT by TNW

Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls. Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls.

While battery electric vehicles are stealing much of the low-emission driving limelight at the moment, hydrogen power is still being explored as a future fuel. And who would have thought it would look like weird gray sludge.

Some believe that hydrogen is the better long term option for low-emission vehicles, as its very energy dense and can refuel a vehicle in minutes — much like a conventional gasoline car.

However, it does come with some caveats. Hydrogen is very difficult to store, and infrastructure for fuel cell EVs is rarer than a nine-bob note.

But some crazy scientists have been thinking outside the box, and come up with a solution. It looks like gloopy and dirty old toothpaste that’s been scraped out a u-bend. On the upside, it’s called POWERPASTE, which is powerful and cool. It’s not at all weird.

Fraunhofer, powerpaste, future, electric, ev, car, hyrdogen
Credit: Fraunhofer IFAM
The Fraunhofer Institute calls it “POWERPASTE!” But please, don’t brush your teeth with it.

[Read: How do you build a pet-friendly gadget? We asked experts and animal owners]

Y’know, come to think of it, it has the same consistency of what came out my car’s sump when I changed the oil on my old — and totally not a grandad car — Peugeot 607 after 150,000 miles. The thickness is what made it so smooth… I think.

Anyway, scientists say this sludge allays many of the challenges associated with conventional hydrogen storage and use in electric vehicles.

Its made mostly of magnesium hydride. When this is mixed with water, it reacts to produce hydrogen (yay!) and magnesium hydroxide (which is also a laxative… yay?).

The hydrogen that’s produced can then be sent to a conventional fuel cell to generate electricity which can then power anything you want.

You’re probably wondering how you get it into a vehicle, because it’s way too thick to pump by conventional means. Well, researchers have a solution for that too. They say that the paste would be inserted into a cartridge, which can then be inserted into whatever it’s going to power.

It’s stable, non-toxic, and has a long shelf-life, making it a more useable alternative to conventional hydrogen, which is hard to store and kinda explosive.

When it runs out of juice, the refueling process is as simple as removing the old depleted cartridge, and putting in a new one full of fresh new POWERPASTE.

Scientists don’t see their POWERPASTE revolutionizing the future of electric cars, but they do see applications in electric drones and escooters. The technology could even be scaled down to use in electric camping stoves, too.

It might look gross and sound a bit crazy, but it just might work.

HT – The Economist

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