Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wisconsin team engineers hydrogen from biomass

29.08.2002


In the search for a nonpolluting energy source, hydrogen is often cited as a potential source of unlimited clean power. But hydrogen is only as clean as the process used to make it. Currently, most hydrogen is made from fossil fuels like natural gas using multi-step and high-temperature processes.



Now, chemical engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a new process that produces hydrogen fuel from plants. This source of hydrogen is non-toxic, non-flammable and can be safely transported in the form of sugars.

Writing this week (Aug. 29) in the journal Nature, research scientist Randy Cortright, graduate student Rupali Davda and professor James Dumesic describe a process by which glucose, the same energy source used by most plants and animals, is converted to hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and gaseous alkanes with hydrogen constituting 50 percent of the products. More refined molecules such as ethylene glycol and methanol are almost completely converted to hydrogen and carbon dioxide.


"The process should be greenhouse-gas neutral," says Cortright. "Carbon dioxide is produced as a byproduct, but the plant biomass grown for hydrogen production will fix and store the carbon dioxide released the previous year."

Glucose is manufactured in vast quantities -- for example, in the form of corn syrup -- from corn starch, but can also be made from sugar beets, or low-cost biomass waste streams like paper mill sludge, cheese whey, corn stover or wood waste.

While hydrogen yields are higher for more refined molecules, Dumesic says glucose derived from waste biomass is likely to be the more practical candidate for cost effectively generating power.

"We believe we can make improvements to the catalyst and reactor design that will increase the amount of hydrogen we get from glucose," says Dumesic. "The alkane byproduct could be used to power an internal combustion engine or a solid-oxide fuel cell. Very little additional energy would be required to drive the process."

Because the Wisconsin process occurs in a liquid phase at low reaction temperatures (227 degrees C., 440 degrees F.) the hydrogen is made without the need to vaporize water. That represents a major energy savings compared to ethanol production or other conventional methods for producing hydrogen from fossil fuels based on vapor-phase, steam-reforming processes.

In addition, the low reaction temperatures result in very low carbon monoxide (CO) concentrations, making it possible to generate fuel-cell-grade hydrogen in a single-step process. The lack of CO in the hydrogen fuel clears a major obstacle to reliable fuel cell operation. CO poisons the electrode surfaces of low-temperature hydrogen fuel cells.

At current hydrogen yields, the team estimates the process could cost effectively generate electrical power. That, according to the Wisconsin researchers, assumes a low-cost biomass waste stream can be efficiently processed and fed into the system.

To be truly useful, the team says several process improvements must first be made. The platinum-based catalyst that drives the reaction is expensive and new combinations of catalysts and reactor configurations are needed to obtain higher hydrogen yields from more concentrated solutions of sugars.

James Dumesic | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu/

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Linear potentiometer LRW2/3 - Maximum precision with many measuring points
17.05.2017 | WayCon Positionsmesstechnik GmbH

nachricht First flat lens for immersion microscope provides alternative to centuries-old technique
17.05.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists propose synestia, a new type of planetary object

23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria

23.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Medical gamma-ray camera is now palm-sized

23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>