Date of Award

Winter 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Micro and Nanoscale Systems

First Advisor

Tabbetha A. Dobbins


Complex metal hydrides are the most promising candidate materials for onboard hydrogen storage. The practicality of this class of materials is counter-poised on three critical attributes: reversible hydrogen storage capacity, high hydrogen uptake/release kinetics, and favorable hydrogen uptake/release thermodynamics. While a majority of modern metallic hydrides that are being considered are those that meet the criteria of high theoretical storage capacity, the challenges lie in addressing poor kinetics, thermodynamics, and reversibility. One emerging strategy to resolve these issues is via nanostructuring or nano-confinement of complex hydrides. By down-sizing and scaffolding them to retain their nano-dimensions, these materials are expected to improve in performance and reversibility. This area of research has garnered immense interest lately and there is active research being pursued to address various aspects of nanostructured complex hydrides. The research effort documented here is focused on a detailed investigation of the effects of nano-confinement on aspects such as the long range atomic hydrogen diffusivities, localized hydrogen dynamics, microstructure, and dehydrogenation mechanism of sodium alanate. A wide variety of microporous and mesoporous materials (metal organic frameworks, porous silica and alumina) were investigated as scaffolds and the synthesis routes to achieve maximum pore-loading are discussed. Wet solution infiltration technique was adopted using tetrahydrofuran as the medium and the precursor concentrations were found to have a major role in achieving maximum pore loading. These concentrations were optimized for each scaffold with varying pore sizes and confinement was quantitatively characterized by measuring the loss in specific surface area.

This work is also aimed at utilizing neutron and synchrotron x-ray characterization techniques to study and correlate multi-scale material properties and phenomena. Some of the most advanced instruments were utilized for this work and their data collection and analysis are reported. Quasielastic neutron scattering experiments were conducted at NIST Center for Neutron Research to characterize atomic hydrogen diffusion in bulk and nano-confined NaAlH4. It was observed that upon confinement of NaAlH4, a significantly higher fraction of hydrogen atoms were involved in diffusive motion on the pico-second to nano-second timescales. However, the confinement had no impact on the lattice diffusivities (jump/hopping rates) of atomic hydrogen, indicating that the improved hydrogen release rates were not due to any kinetic destabilization effects. Instead, the investigation strongly suggested thermodynamic destabilization as the major effect of nano-confinement. The local interaction of the metal sites in metal organic frameworks with the infiltrated hydride was studied using extended x-ray absorption spectroscopy technique. The experiments were conducted at Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices at Louisiana State University. The metal sites were found to be chemically un-altered, hence ruling out any catalytic role in the dehydrogenation at room temperatures. The fractal morphology of NaAlH4 was characterized by ultra-small angle x-ray scattering experiments performed at Argonne National Lab. The studies quantitatively estimated the extent of densification in the course of one desorption cycle. The particle sizes were found to increase two-fold during heat treatment. Also, the nano-confinement procedure was shown to produce dense mass fractals as opposed to pristine NaAlH4, exhibiting a surface fractal morphology. Based on this finding, a new method to identify confined material from un-confined material in nano-composites was developed and is presented. Preliminary results of modeling and correlating multi-scale phenomena using a phase-field approach are also presented as the foundation for future work.