Researchers from Glasgow University are using nanotechnology to find a way of storing hydrogen in a solid state.
The gas can be burnt to release energy, or combined with oxygen in a fuel cell to produce electricity.
In both cases, the only waste product is water – meaning it could become a clean alternative to powering aircraft and car engines.
However, it can be expensive and difficult to store safely.
The team are working on changing the composition of a hydrogen storage tank to make it more efficient and able to hold the gas in a solid state, which makes it more stable and last longer.
They hope to be able to fly an unmanned aircraft using a hydrogen-powered fuel cell if the new storage tank works well.
Duncan Gregory, professor of inorganic materials in the School of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, who is working on the project, said: “The largest bottleneck in the process of realising hydrogen-based technologies is storage.
“Finding a viable means of storing hydrogen in the solid state would pave the way for the industrial-scale use of hydrogen as a clean alternative to hydrocarbon-based fuels in aeroplanes.
“This exciting technology could deliver a genuine paradigm shift in aviation transport that will have immense benefits to the environment in terms of significantly reducing carbon emissions.”
The project is part-funded by the Materials Knowledge Transfer Network – part of the UK Technology Strategy Board – and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).