Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Materials Science and Engineering


Jiann-Yang Hwang


Energy crisis and worldwide environmental problem make hydrogen a prospective energy carrier. However, storage and transportation of hydrogen in large quantities at small volume is currently not practical. Lots of materials and devices have been developed for storage hydrogen, but to today none is able to meet the DOE targets.

Activated carbon has been found to be a good hydrogen adsorbent due to its high surface area. However, the weak van der Waals force between hydrogen and the adsorbent has limited the adsorption capacity. Previous studies have found that enhanced adsorption can be obtained with applied electric field. Stronger interaction between the polarized hydrogen and the charged sorbents under high voltage is considered as the reason.

This study was initiated to investigate if the adsorption can be further enhanced when the activated carbon particles are separated with a dielectric coating. Dielectric TiO2 nanoparticles were first utilized. Hydrogen adsorption measurements on the TiO2-coated carbon materials, with or without an external electric field, were made. The results showed that the adsorption capacity enhancement increased with the increasing amount of TiO2 nanoparticles with an applied electric field. Since the hydrogen adsorption capacity on TiO2 particles is very low and there is no hydrogen adsorption enhancement on TiO2 particles alone when electric field is applied, the effect of dielectric coating is demonstrated.

Another set of experiments investigated the behavior of hydrogen adsorption over TiO2-coated activated carbon under various electric potentials. The results revealed that the hydrogen adsorption first increased and then decreased with the increase of electric field. The improved storage was due to a stronger interaction between charged carbon surface and polarized hydrogen molecule caused by field induced polarization of TiO2 coating. When the electric field was sufficient to cause considerable ionization of hydrogen, the decrease of hydrogen adsorption occurred. The current leak detected at 3000 V was a sign of ionization of hydrogen.

Experiments were also carried out to examine the hydrogen adsorption performances over activated carbon separated by other dielectric materials, MgO, ZnO and BaTiO3, respectively. For the samples partitioned with MgO and ZnO, the measurements with and without an electric field indicated negligible differences. Electric field enhanced adsorption has been observed on the activated carbon separated with BaTiO3, a material with unusually high dielectric constant.

Corresponding computational calculations using Density Functional Theory have been performed on hydrogen interaction with charged TiO2 molecule as well as TiO2 molecule, coronene and TiO2-doped coronene in the presence of an electric field. The simulated results were consistent with the observations from experiments, further confirming the proposed hypotheses.