UK researchers develop carbon neutral hydrogen production method using ethanol

January 07 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2019   Rating: 1

hydrogen and oxygen molecules

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen (UK) have announced a new carbon neutral method of producing hydrogen using ethanol feedstock.

The new method could offer an alternative use for bioenergy feedstocks.  Instead of transforming biomass (corn stovers, organic waste) into a liquid fuel used in combustion engines, we can now imagine capturing hydrogen bonds from biofeedstocks to use in more efficient fuel cells.

Why care about hydrogen?
Hydrogen is usually misrepresented by both supporters and cynics.  It is neither the 'savior' of Planet Earth, nor is it a 'waste of time'.  

Hydrogen is a storage system, not a source of energy.  But, what the global economy needs are more breakthroughs in energy storage!  (Hint: batteries are not the end game!)

Read More:

Hydrogen Economy = Electricity Economy = Hydricity Economy?
UK Researchers give us Carbon Neutral, but leave us dependent on Biomass:

Electricity powers the future.  Hydrogen is just a form of electrical energy storage.

The concept of a 'Hydrogen Economy' is misleading.   It is a future world powered by electricity, where energy is stored in the form of chemical bonds of hydrogen and converted via a fuel cell.

A better image of the future is 'hydricity' where hydrogen and electricity are viewed as interchangeable.

How do we get there?

Hydrogen researchers are pushing forward on two areas - production and storage.  Using nanostructuerd catalysts we can dramaticallly lower the cost and increase efficiencies of capturing hydrogen.  Using high surface area materials, hydrogen can be stored safely, at high densities in the form of a solid.

Carbon Neutral Hydrogen Production
Professor Hicham Idriss, Energy Futures Chair at the University of Aberdeen who has led the study said: "We have successfully created the first stable catalyst which can generate hydrogen using ethanol produced from crop fermentation at realistic conditions.

"Moreover, hydrogen generated using this method is very clean and therefore suitable for fuel cells because it also converts all carbon monoxide, which is poisonous, generated in the process to carbon dioxide at the same time. 

"The catalyst is made of very small nanoparticles of metals deposited on larger nanoparticles of a support called cerium oxide which is also used in catalytic converters in cars.  At present the generation of hydrogen needed to power a mid size fuel cell can be achieved using 1 Kg of this catalyst.

"As with traditional methods of hydrogen production, carbon dioxide is still created during the process we have developed.  However unlike fossil fuels which are underground we are using ethanol generated from an above the ground source - plants or crops.  This means that any carbon dioxide created during the process is assimilated back into the environment and is then used by plants as part of their natural cycle of growth.


Image Credit  vitroids Flickr CC License

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