Hydrogen has the potential to power much of the modern world with only water as a by-product, but storing hydrogen safely and efficiently in solid form such as magnesium hydride remains a major obstacle. A significant challenge has been the difficulty of proving the hydriding/dehydriding mechanisms and, therefore, the mechanisms have long been the subject of debate. Here we use in situ ultra-high voltage transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to directly verify the mechanisms of the hydride decomposition of bulk MgH2 in Mg-Ni alloys. We find that the hydrogen release mechanism from bulk (2 μm) MgH2 particles is based on the growth of multiple pre-existing Mg crystallites within the MgH2 matrix, present due to the difficulty of fully transforming all Mg during a hydrogenation cycle whereas, in thin samples analogous to nano-powders, dehydriding occurs by a 'shrinking core' mechanism.
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