Photos of high-throughput reactor showing A) reactor with common headspace top plate (used for catalyst reduction) and B) reactor with isolated headspace plate (used for reaction and gas chromatograph analysis).
Credit: G. W. Huber, J. W. Shabaker, and J. A. Dumesic, University of Wisconsin-Madison; NSF, DOE
Scientists have developed a hydrogen-making catalyst that uses cheaper materials and yields fewer contaminants than do current processes, while extracting the element from common renewable plant sources. Further, the new catalyst lies at the heart of a chemical process the authors say is a significant advance in producing alternate fuels from domestic sources.
In the June 27 issue of the journal Science, James Dumesic, John Shabaker and George Huber, of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, report developing the catalyst from nickel, tin and aluminum and using it in a process called aqueous-phase reforming (APR), which converts plant byproducts to hydrogen. The process performs as well as current methods that use precious metals such as platinum, yet runs at lower temperatures and is much cleaner.
"The APR process can be used on the small scale to produce fuel for portable devices, such as cars, batteries, and military equipment, " said Dumesic. "But it could also be scaled up as a hydrogen source for industrial applications, such as the production of fertilizers or the removal of sulfur from petroleum products."
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