A joint effort by the University of Missouri-Columbia and Midwest Research Institute developed the technology that starts with corncob waste. Researchers created carbon briquettes with complex nanopores that can store national gas at 180 times its own volume and at one-seventh the pressure of conventional storage tanks.
This is the first time the 180: 1 storage to volume target set by the Dept. of Energy has been achieved.
Conventional storage compresses natural gas to a pressure of 3,600 psi but still requires bulky tanks. The downside is reduced driving range and more frequent trips to the refueling station. The briquettes can store natural gas at 500 psi or the same pressure found in pipelines. The lower pressure would also give engineers flexibility in designing thin-wall fuel tanks that could fit under the vehicles, not in the trunk or pickup bed.
Corncobs, of course, could be recycled from ethanol or other corn-processing plants. Second-generation briquettes also hold promise for storing hydrogen. There was no indication of how soon this technology could be commercialized or how expensive the new tanks would be.