Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

’Flower power’ cars could be in your future

26.08.2004


Researchers in England have found a promising method for producing hydrogen from sunflower oil, a development that could lead to cleaner and more efficient hydrogen production for powering automobile fuel cells as well as homes, factories and offices. The development was described today at the 228th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

Fuel cells show much promise for supplying the energy needs of the future, and their demand is growing with increasing use of the technology. But one of their drawbacks, experts say, is that the hydrogen required to run them generally comes from the burning of fossil fuels, which generate pollutants such as carbon monoxide and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane.

"Producing hydrogen from sunflower oil could provide a more environmentally-friendly alternative by reducing these pollutants while offering an abundant, low-cost and renewable resource that reduces dependence on foreign oil," says the study’s lead researcher, Valerie Dupont, Ph.D., an energy engineer with the University of Leeds in England.



Dupont and her collaborators developed an experimental hydrogen generator that uses only sunflower oil, air and water vapor along with two highly-specialized catalysts — one nickel-based, the other carbon-based — that are alternatively used to store and then release oxygen or carbon dioxide while producing hydrogen intermittently. The new process does not involve the burning of any fossil fuels, they say.

The sunflower oil used is the same type found on grocery shelves. "We would happily toss our salad with it," says the researcher, who adds that the process can also work with other types of vegetable oils.

In the prototype device, which can fit on a standard lab bench, water and oil are pumped into the unit and passed through a pre-heater to vaporize them. Through a process called steam reforming, the mixture is broken down in the presence of heat to generate carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane and carbon monoxide.

The catalysts, which are key to the process, orchestrate a series of chemical maneuvers that ultimately result in an increased hydrogen yield. First, one of the catalysts (the nickel-based unit) absorbs the oxygen from the air and this interaction heats up the reactor bed of the device. Simultaneously, in the presence of heat, another catalyst (a carbon-based adsorbent) releases any carbon dioxide previously trapped in the device.

Once the reactor bed is hot enough and all the carbon dioxide has been released and expelled from the reactor, the mixture of vaporized oil and water are then fed into the reactor chamber. The heat from the reactor bed breaks down the carbon-hydrogen bonds in the vaporized oil. Water (steam) binds its oxygen to the carbon, releasing its hydrogen and yielding carbon monoxide. When carbon monoxide and water vapor are in the presence of each other, they tend to form carbon dioxide and hydrogen. This overall process results in a cyclical production of hydrogen, Dupont says, adding that the process can be modified to allow continuous hydrogen production.

In laboratory studies, the researchers achieved a hydrogen purity of 90 percent, which is more efficient than current hydrogen generators that only achieve a hydrogen purity of about 70 percent. The byproducts of the sunflower oil transformation, carbon dioxide and methane, are generated in roughly equal proportions, the researchers say.

"Currently the generator is heated electrically, but in the near future all the heat necessary to carry out the reaction of steam with oil vapor will come from the intake of oxygen on the nickel catalyst," Dupont says.

The experimental generator has not been used to supply hydrogen to any fuel cells yet, but a similar device could be refined to equip fuel stations with large-scale hydrogen supplies, which consumers can ultimately feed into the tanks of vehicles containing fuel cells, the researchers say.

Hydrogen is a key component of fuel cells, where it reacts with oxygen to generate electricity, with water as the main emission. Major automobile manufacturers are quickly developing fuel cell technology, but mass production of such vehicles is expected to be many years away, experts say. Fuel cells also can be used to provide electricity and heat to buildings.

Funding for this study was provided by the United Kingdom’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Dupont’s collaborators in this study were chemists Andrew Ross and Jenny Jones, of the University of Leeds; Martyn V. Twigg, European Technology Director at Johnson Matthey in Royston, England; and Ian Hanley, a doctoral candidate at the University of Leeds.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with a multidisciplinary membership of more than 159,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishes numerous scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. Mark T. Sampson

Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.acs.org

More articles from Automotive Engineering:

nachricht 3D scans for the automotive industry
16.01.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Improvement of the operating range and increasing of the reliability of integrated circuits
09.11.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH

All articles from Automotive Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>