Interaction of hydrogen with metal nitrides and imides


The pursuit of a clean and healthy environment has stimulated much effort in the development of technologies for the utilization of hydrogen-based energy. A critical issue is the need for practical systems for hydrogen storage, a problem that remains unresolved after several decades of exploration. In this context, the possibility of storing hydrogen in advanced carbon materials has generated considerable interest. But confirmation and a mechanistic understanding of the hydrogen-storage capabilities of these materials still require much work1,2,3,4,5. Our previously published work on hydrogen uptake by alkali-doped carbon nanotubes cannot be reproduced by others6,7,8. It was realized by us and also demonstrated by Pinkerton et al.8 that most of the weight gain was due to moisture, which the alkali oxide picked up from the atmosphere. Here we describe a different material system, lithium nitride, which shows potential as a hydrogen storage medium. Lithium nitride is usually employed as an electrode, or as a starting material for the synthesis of binary or ternary nitrides9,10. Using a variety of techniques, we demonstrate that this compound can also reversibly take up large amounts of hydrogen. Although the temperature required to release the hydrogen at usable pressures is too high for practical application of the present material, we suggest that more investigations are needed, as the metal–N–H system could prove to be a promising route to reversible hydrogen storage.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Weight variations during hydrogen absorption and desorption processes over Li3N samples, details are given in the Methods.
Figure 2: Pressure–composition (P–C) isotherms of Li3N and Li2NH samples.
Figure 3: Structure changes during hydrogen absorption and desorption processes.
Figure 4: P–C isotherms of the Ca2NH sample measured at 500 °C and 550 °C, respectively.


  1. 1

    Dillon, A. C. et al. Storage of hydrogen in single-walled carbon nanotubes. Nature 386, 377–379 (1997)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Liu, C. et al. Hydrogen storage in single-walled carbon nanotubes at room temperature. Science 286, 1127–1129 (1999)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Ye, Y. et al. Hydrogen adsorption and cohesive energy of single-walled carbon nanotubes. Appl. Phys. Lett. 74, 2307–2309 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Hirscher, M. et al. Hydrogen storage in sonicated carbon materials. Appl. Phys. A 72, 129–132 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Meregalli, V. & Parrinello, M. Review of theoretical calculations of hydrogen storage in carbon-based materials. Appl. Phys. A 72, 143–146 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Chen, P., Wu, X., Lin, J. & Tan, K. L. High H2 uptake by alkali-doped carbon nanotubes under ambient pressure and moderate temperature. Science 285, 91–93 (1999)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Yang, R. T. Hydrogen storage by alkali-doped carbon nanotubes-revisited. Carbon 38, 623–626 (2000)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Pinkerton, F. E. et al. Thermogravimetric measurement of hydrogen absorption in alkali-modified carbon materials. J. Phys. Chem. B 104, 9460–9467 (2000)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    O'Loughlin, J. L., Wallace, C. H., Knox, M. S. & Kaner, R. B. Rapid solid-state synthesis of tantalum, chromium, and molybdenum nitrides. Inorg. Chem. 40, 2240–2245 (2001)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Shodai, T., Okada, S., Tobishima, S. & Yamayi, J. Anode performance of a new layered nitride Li3-xCoxN (x = 0.2-0.6). J. Power Source 68, 515–518 (1997)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Power Diffraction File TM Data sets: 1–49 (International Center for Diffraction Data (ICDD), Pennsylvania, USA, 1999).

  12. 12

    Lithium, Gmelins Handbuch-Der Anorganischen Chemie System Number 20 (ed. Meyer, R. J.) 273–270 (Verlag Chemie, GMBH, Weinhein/Bergstrasse, 1960)

  13. 13

    Dafert, F. W. & Miklauz, R. Uber einige neue verbindungen von stickstoff und wasserstoff mit lithium. Monatsch. Chem. 31, 981–996 (1910)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Juza, R. & Opp, K. Metallic amides and metallic nitrides. XXIV. The crystal structure of lithium amide. Z. Anorg. Allg. Chem. 266, 313–324 (1951)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Schenk, P. W. Nitrogen, Handbook of Preparative Inorganic Chemistry 464–465 (Academic Press, New York, 1963)

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Jung, W. B., Nahm, K. S. & Lee, W. Y. The reaction-kinetics of hydrogen storage in Mg2Ni. Int. J. Hydrogen Energy 15, 641–648 (1990)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank A. Nazri and the General Motors R&D Centre (Warren, Detroit, USA) for the facilitation of confirmation tests. The work is financially supported by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) of Singapore.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ping Chen.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Chen, P., Xiong, Z., Luo, J. et al. Interaction of hydrogen with metal nitrides and imides. Nature 420, 302–304 (2002).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing