According to many scientists, the proposed ‘hydrogen economy’, in which hydrogen is to become the most important carrier of sustainably generated energy, is an inevitable development. Unfortunately, the use of hydrogen entails certain risks, because it is flammable and difficult to detect. Reliable sensors to indicate the presence of hydrogen are therefore a vital element in the future hydrogen economy. Scientists at Utrecht University, TU Delft and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble have now developed a sensor that changes colour when exposed to hydrogen.
The research that the scientists described in their publication in Nature Communications focuses on the combination of the chemical elements yttrium and zirconium, two so-called ‘transition metals’. The main advantage to this composite is that the material changes colour as it absorbs hydrogen, and the colour change depends on the amount of hydrogen absorbed. In so doing, research into transition metals has produced a hydrogen sensor that can be read by the naked eye.