Andrew Ulvestad (Shpyrko group) discovers Molecular "Avalanches" in hydrogen storage materials

Andrew Ulvestad (Shpyrko group) discovers Molecular "Avalanches" in hydrogen storage materials Imagine a sponge that could soak up a thousand times its own volume in water. Now imagine how effective that sponge would be if it could store hydrogen instead of water, giving researchers an alternative to compressed air cylinders for storing the gas.

Palladium, a precious metal closely related to platinum, is that sponge. Unlike any other element, it takes up hydrogen at room temperature and pressure. In a recent study, Andrew Ulvestad (Physics PhD student in Shpyrko group) and co-workers have gained new insight into how this uptake of hydrogen occurs, realized how it impacts the atomic structure of the palladium, and identified key properties of how this form of hydrogen storage could work in the future.

When hydrogen is cycled into the palladium nanoparticles, it alters and degrades the particles' structure over time due to strain. "It's like trying to put your foot in too small of a shoe," said Dr. Andrew Ulvestad (recent UCSD Physics PhD in Shpyrko group, and currently a Directoral Postdoctoral Fellow at Argonne), who was the study's first author.

See: A. Ulvestad, M.J. Welland, S.S.E. Collins, R. Harder, E. Maxey, J. Wingert, A. Singer, S. Hy, P. Mulvaney, P. Zapol, O.G. Shpyrko, "Avalanching strain dynamics during the hydriding phase transformation in individual palladium nanoparticles," Nat. Commun. 6, 10092-1 (2015). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10092 (Link: