Mix together some sugar, a generous dose of alcohol, a dash of salt and a splash of water. It sounds like a recipe for an interesting night, but this mixture could one day be used to make a crystalline material for storing hydrogen in fuel-cell cars.
A simple tank is impractical for storing the amount of hydrogen needed to give a fuel-cell car a decent range: the tank would either need to be chilled to around -250 °C to hold the hydrogen in liquid form, or be enormous if a compressed gas is used.
So researchers have experimented with storing hydrogen inside molecular "cages", made from chains of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms linked by metal ions. These so-called metalorganic
frameworks (MOFs) only bond weakly with the hydrogen atoms they enclose, so the gas can be recovered simply by heating the material slightly.