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For hydrogen-powered vehicles to succeed, the fuel needs to be pumped into tanks as easily as gasoline?and without the threat of Hindenburg-like disasters.

Sandia National Laboratories recently suggested an alternative technology for synthesizing carbon-based fuels so that the current U.S. fuel distribution system can be used. Now, Ford Motor Co. has emerged with an autocatalytic reaction scheme involving three hydrides that could someday enable hydrogen to be pumped into tanks as easily as gasoline.

The technique, called a ternary-hydride autocatalytic reaction, stores hydrogen in a solid semi-metal?a compound of magnesium, lithium and hydrogen?that can quickly be absorbed and released. Others have already suggested using metal hydrides for hydrogen storage since the reaction is well-known and reversible. Until now, the temperatures and pressures required to release the hydrogen were too high to be feasible

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