Stuffing in the hydrogen – Lithium Boro-hydride

What does it look like?

Crystal structure of lithium boro-hydride, the light green atoms are lithium, dark green boron and pink are hydrogen.  Image generated by the VESTA (Visualisation for Electronic and STructual analysis) software http://jp-minerals.org/vesta/en/

Crystal structure of lithium boro-hydride, the light green atoms are lithium, dark green boron and pink are hydrogen. Image generated by the VESTA (Visualisation for Electronic and STructual analysis) software http://jp-minerals.org/vesta/en/

What is it?

One solution to our society’s dependence on carbon dioxide emitting fossil fuels is the suggestion that we move to a ‘hydrogen economy’.  The idea is that we can abundantly form hydrogen, and on releasing it’s energy produce water as a waste product.  But one of the challenges facing this route has been how to store it!  Conventional high-pressure tanks of hydrogen gas are expensive and heavy (and a little dangerous).  So in came crystallography to look for solids with a high-density hydrogen content!

There has been lots of promising candidates for this, principally hydrides formed when hydrogen reacts with metals like magnesium and sodium.  There was an issue with these however, the hydrogen within them were bound too tight – it would cost too much energy to release them.  So one potential solution to this was this material, lithium boro-hydride, where the boron don’t hold onto the hydrogen quite a tight.

Where did the structure come from?

The structure we’ve featured come from work by Soulié et al., published in 2002. They investigated the structure of Lithium boro-hydride and also found a new polymorph that forms at high-temperature.  The crsytal structuere data for this study can be found in the Cambridege structre data base, refcode XIHFAW03.

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