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Revolutionary invention

A new development could revolutionise driving with hydrogen. Previous hydrogen drives are not practical, especially for small vehicles. The so-called Powerpaste solves the space problem and could soon provide clean cities as a drive for electric vehicles with fuel cells.

The so-called Powerpaste, which was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research IFAM in Dresden, is a beacon of hope as an energy supplier for vehicles with fuel cells. The grey mass with a pudding-like consistency does not look particularly spectacular, but it could revolutionise motoring in the near future.

For many years, scientists have been researching hydrogen propulsion for vehicles with fuel cells. Especially for trucks, for which battery-powered electric motors do not have enough range, hydrogen seems to be the means of choice. For small cars, on the other hand, hydrogen has so far seemed unsuitable because storing the propulsion normally requires high pressure or low temperatures and therefore large tanks. Not so the power paste.

Powerpaste is produced at about 350 degrees Celsius and five to six bar pressure from magnesium powder and hydrogen with the addition of ester and metal salt. The result is a stable substance that can be carried in a small cartridge in even the smallest vehicles such as e-scooters. With the addition of water, the power paste is then converted into hydrogen, which supplies the fuel cell with energy. Waste products are neither fine dust nor nitrogen oxides, but magnesium hydroxide, a colourless salt that can be reused for the production of the power paste. At the same time, heat is generated that could be used for interior heating in closed vehicles.

The energy yield of the grey paste also gives hope. "It is much higher than a 700-bar pressure tank. Compared to batteries, it even has ten times the energy storage density," says a scientist at IFAM. Moreover, compared to battery-powered e-cars, there is no need for tiresome recharging.

Production of the paste is to be tested by the end of the year in order to clarify questions about industrial production and the costs of the novel substance. However, a kilo of power paste should not cost more than 2 to 3 euros.

For the environmental zones in Europe, the power paste does not yet mean a sigh of relief, but it could drive the emission-free market forward in the coming years, especially for small cars. So maybe in a few years we won't be driving on electricity from the socket, as we thought, but on grey pudding.