Date of Award

Fall 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Micro and Nanoscale Systems

First Advisor

Daniela S. Mainardi


Hydrogen offers considerable potential benefits as an energy carrier. However, safe and convenient storage of hydrogen is one of the biggest challenges to be resolved in the near future. Sodium magnesium hydride (NaMgH 3) has attracted attention as a hydrogen storage material due to its light weight and high volumetric hydrogen density of 88 kg/m3. Despite the advantages, hydrogen release in this material occurs at approximately 670 K, which is well above the operable range for on-board hydrogen storage applications. In this regard, hydrogen release may be facilitated by substitution doping of transition-metals. This dissertation describes first-principles computational methods that enable an examination of the hydrogen storage properties of NaMgH3. The novel contribution of this dissertation includes a combination of crystal, supercell, and surface slab calculations that provides new and relevant insights about the thermodynamic and kinetic properties of NaMgH3.

First-principles calculations on the pristine crystal structure provide a starting reference point for the study of this material as a hydrogen storage material. To the best of our knowledge, it is reported for the first time that a 25% mol doping concentration of Ti, V, Cu, and Zn dopants reduce the reaction enthalpy of hydrogen release for NaMgH3. The largest decrease in the ΔH(298 K) value corresponds to the Zn-doped model (67.97 kJ/(mol H2)). Based on cohesive energy calculations, it is reported that at the 6.25% mol doping concentration, Ti and Zn dopants are the only transition metals that destabilize the NaMgH3 hydride. In terms of hydrogen removal energy, it is quantified that the energy cost to remove a single H from the Ti-doped supercell model is 0.76 eV, which is lower with respect to the pristine model and other prototypical hydrogen storage materials. From the calculation of electronic properties such as density of states, electron density difference, and charge population analysis schemes it is shown that the effectiveness of these two dopants is due to the modified chemical bonding induce by the overlap of d orbitals.

For the surface slab calculations, a key finding is that the preferred layer for the simultaneous substitution of Ti and Zn dopants at two different Na sites is the outermost layer with substitution energy values of -5.27 eV and -5.24 eV, respectively. The kinetic barrier for hydrogen desorption from the (001) surface is studied using DFT calculations, LST/QST, and NEB methods. We find that for the pristine model, the direct recombination of a H 2 molecule has a kinetic barrier of 1.16 eV. More importantly, we find that the calculated kinetic barrier of H2 desorption when the (001) surface is co-doped with Ti and Zn is 0.42 eV. These results show that the combined use of a Ti dopant and a Zn dopant is the best mix for reducing the energy barrier to release hydrogen from the (001) NaMgH3 surface.