Seeking a new material to monitor hydrogen

The demand for hydrogen on a commercial scale is growing rapidly. This colourless, highly combustible gas is not only a large industrial and laboratory commodity, but also has the potential to be used as fuel, and this could increase the demand to more than 2 trillion cubic metres per year. Therefore it is necessary to have a dedicated sensing system with low saturation, high sensitivity and affordability to measure hydrogen.

Arif Ibrahim, a research scholar with the IITB-Monash Research Academy, is hoping to develop precisely such a system as part of his project, ‘Nano-confined multi component metal hydride system for hydrogen sensing application’.

“Current measuring technologies use various principles — like Resistive, Optical, Bubble Testing, Catalytic Combustion, and Electrochemical,” says Arif. “We hope to come up with a thin-film-based hydrogen gas sensor using carbon-based material, which performs continuous monitoring with appropriate electronic arrangement.”

Hydrogen cannot be detected by human senses, making the use of suitable detection devices necessary. It is highly inflammable, and since hydrogen leaks can be hazardous if not detected quickly, reliable detection systems need to be tested, and their performance validated, so that they can be effectively deployed wherever hydrogen is produced, stored, distributed, or used.

Says Arif, “We have so far come up with a novel material that shows better response with pd dispersion into the matrix of that material and hydrogen gas can be sensed and continuously monitored with its lower limit by using any either resistive- or optical-based detection system. The biggest challenge is to get a proper thin film with thickness that lies under the 2D regime.”

The IITB-Monash Research Academy is a collaboration between India and Australia that endeavours to strengthen scientific relationships between the two countries. Graduate research scholars like Arif study for a dually-badged PhD from both IIT Bombay and Monash University, spending time at both institutions to enrich their research experience.

The image shows the detection principle in resistive as well as optical domain. In resistive sensing approach material is deposited on the top of conductive electrode i.e. gold, silver then sensing is done on the basis of change in resistivity with respect to exposure in the hydrogen rich environment. Similarly optical approaches are based on the change in the reflectivity of the material subjected to hydrogen gas

Says Prof Murali Sastry, CEO of the IITB-Monash Research Academy, “Hydrogen is not a primary energy source such as coal or gas but is an energy carrier (similar to electricity) and can store and deliver energy in a widely useable form. It is one of the most promising alternative fuels for future transport applications. When produced from renewable sources it provides pollution-free transport, without carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and decreases our dependence on dwindling oil reserves. If Arif is able to develop a sensing system for hydrogen that’s reliable and robust, the scope is tremendous.”

Arif Ibrahim

Research scholar: Arif Ibrahim, IITB-Monash Research Academy

Project title: Nano-confined multi component metal hydride system for hydrogen sensing application

Supervisors: Prof. S P Duttagupta, Prof. A Sarkar, Prof. Sankara Sarma V Tatiparti, Prof. Raman Singh, Prof. Gita Pendharkar

Contact details:

The above story was written by Mr Krishna Warrier based on inputs from the research student, his supervisors, and IITB-Monash Research Academy. Copyright IITB-Monash Research Academy.