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In this study we discuss a process of mechanical activation employed in place of chemical or thermal activation to improve the mobility and reactivity of hydrogen atoms and ions in nanomaterials for energy applications: rechargeable batteries and hydrogen storage for fuel cell systems. Two materials are discussed. Both are used or intended for use in power sources. One is nickel hydroxide, Ni(OH)2, which converts to oxyhydroxide in the positive Ni electrode of rechargeable metal hydride batteries. The other is a complex hydride, Mg(AlH4)2, intended for use in reversible, solid-state hydrogen storage for fuel cells. The feature shared by these unlikely materials (hydroxide and hydride) is a sheet-like hexagonal crystal structure. The mechanical activation was conducted in high-energy ball mills. We discuss and demonstrate that the mechanical excitation of atoms and ions imparted on these powders stems from the same class of phenomena. These are (i) proliferation of structural defects, in particular stacking faults in a sheet-like structure of hexagonal crystals, and (ii) possible fragmentation of a faulted structure into a mosaic of layered nanocrystals. The hydrogen atoms bonded in such nanocrystals may be inserted and abstracted more easily from OH− hydroxyl group in Ni(OH)2 and AlH−4 hydride complex in Mg(AlH4)2 during hydrogen charge and discharge reactions. However, the effects of mechanical excitation imparted on these powders are different. While the Ni(OH)2 powder is greatly activated for cycling in batteries, the Mg(AlH4)2 complex hydride phase is greatly destabilized for use in reversible hydrogen storage. Such a "synchronic" view of the structure-property relationship in respect to materials involved in hydrogen energy storage and conversion is supported in experiments employing X-ray diffraction (XRD), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and direct imaging of the structure with a high-resolution transmission-electron microscope (HREM), as well as in property characterization.
Journal for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (JNN) is an international and multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal with a wide-ranging coverage, consolidating research activities in all areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology into a single and unique reference source. JNN is the first cross-disciplinary journal to publish original full research articles, rapid communications of important new scientific and technological findings, timely state-of-the-art reviews with author's photo and short biography, and current research news encompassing the fundamental and applied research in all disciplines of science, engineering and medicine.