A new method of layering graphite has been discovered, which could lead to storing hydrogen in a vehicle safely and efficiently.

The scientists who discovered the method claim carbon based storage may have the most potential to make fuel-cell vehicles commercially viable and that previous research has underestimated the potential capacity of the material to absorb and store hydrogen.

One of the scientists, John Tse, says graphite nanomaterial can be layered to absorb hydrogen at higher volumes and by controlling the spacing of layers of graphitic plates to maximize adsorption, a graphite storage system could meet the US Department of Energy's milestones for both weight and volume of a hydrogen storage system.

The graphitic material is lighter than metal hydrides storage solutions currently being explored, and is relatively cheap to create.

America is aiming to reduce the use of fossil fuels and wants fuel-cell vehicles to be widely available by 2020 and has set goals for the weight, volume, cost and refuelling time of hydrogen storage systems.

Carbon does not achieve all of the goals and the DOE says a hydrogen storage platform is the most critical barrier to the hydrogen economy. It is investing millions of dollars into research at universities and laboratories in an effort to come up with a solution.

As well as the government sponsored research, several companies are working on their own storage systems for hydrogen powered vehicles.

One company is Canadian based Hera Hydrogen Storage Systems which is developing complex metal hydrides that can absorb and release hydrogen gas and are much lighter than hydrides composed of metal alloys used in earlier research. The company is experimenting with sodium and magnesium-based nanomaterials which are more efficient in bonding hydrogen with metal