Researchers Developing Sponge-Like Material for CNG Vehicles


Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering say they are utilizing metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to develop a new type of storage system that adsorbs natural gas like a sponge to allow for more energy-efficient storage and use.

“One of the biggest challenges in developing an adsorbed natural gas (ANG) storage system is that the process generates significant heat which limits how quickly the tank can be filled,” says Dr. Christopher Wilmer, who co-authored the related study. “Unfortunately, not a lot is known about how to make adsorbents dissipate heat quickly. This study illuminates some of the fundamental mechanisms involved.”

According to the study, traditional CNG tanks are empty structures requiring the gas to be stored at high pressure, affecting the design and weight of the vehicle. Wilmer and his lab are instead focusing on porous crystal/gas systems, specifically MOFs, which possess structures with extremely high surface areas.

“By gaining a better understanding of heat transfer mechanisms at the atomic scale in porous materials, we could develop a more efficient material that would be thermally conductive rather than thermally insulating,” he says. “Beyond natural gas, these insights could help us design better hydrogen gas storage systems as well. Any industrial process where a gas interacts with a porous material, where heat is an important factor, could potentially benefit from this research.”

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