Physicochemical properties of alkaline aqueous sodium metaborate solutions

Caroline R. Cloutier, Akram Alfantazi, Elod Gyenge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: The transition to a hydrogen fuel economy is hindered by the lack of a practical storage method and concerns associated with its safe handling. Chemical hydrides have the potential to address these concerns. Sodium borohydride (sodium tetrahydroborate, NaBH4), is the most attractive chemical hydride for H2 generation and storage in automotive fuel cell applications, but recycling from sodium metaborate (NaBO2), is difficult and costly. An electrochemical regeneration process could represent an economically feasible and environmentally friendly solution. Method of Approach: We report a study of the properties of concentrated NaBO2 alkaline aqueous solutions that are necessary to the development of electrochemical recycling methods. The solubility, pH, density, conductivity, and viscosity of aqueous NaBO2 solutions containing varying weight percentages (1, 2, 3, 5, 7.5, and 10 wt. %) of alkali hydroxides (NaOH, KOH, and LiOH) were evaluated at 25°C. The precipitates formed in supersaturated solutions were characterized by X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy. Results: All NaBO2 physicochemical properties investigated, except solubility, increased with increased hydroxide ion concentration. The solubility of NaBO2 was enhanced by the addition of KOH to the saturated solution, but decreased when LiOH and NaOH were used. The highest ionic conductivity (198.27 S/m) was obtained from the filtrate of saturated aqueous solutions containing more than 30 wt. % NaBO2 and 10 wt. % NaOH prior to filtration. At 10 wt. % hydroxide, the viscosity of the NaBO2 solution was the highest in the case of LiOH (11.38 cP) and lowest for those containing NaOH (6.37 cP). The precipitate was hydrated, NaBO2 for all hydroxides, but its hydration level was unclear. Conclusions: The use of KOH as the electrolyte was found to be more advantageous for the H2 storage and generation system based on NaBO2 solubility and solution half-life. However, the addition of NaOH led to the highest ionic conductivity, and its use seems more suitable for the electroreduction of NaBO2. Further investigations on the impact of KOH and NaOH on the electroreduction of NaBO2 in aqueous media have the potential to enhance the commercial viability of NaBH4.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)88-98
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Fuel Cell Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Fuel cell
  • Hydrogen storage
  • Hydrolysis
  • Sodium borohydride


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