David Kirkpatrick

January 6, 2009

Hydrogen from ethanol

I’ll have to admit this sounds a little pie-in-the-sky. I’ve read way too much on various hydrogen schemes to give this any market relevance before I see/read about a whole lot more in terms of real costs, drawbacks and applications.

At the same time it’s good to see ongoing research into alternative energy sources. I have no problem with petroleum use, but it is a limited resource as things currently stand. And mankind’s power needs are only increasing at a phenomenal rate.

From the link:

Scientists have created an entirely natural and renewable method for producing hydrogen to generate electricity which could drastically reduce the dependency on fossil fuels in the future.

The breakthrough means ethanol which comes from the fermentation of crops can be completely converted to hydrogen and carbon dioxide for the first time.

The hydrogen generated would be used to power fuel cells – devices which convert fuels into electricity directly without the need for combustion.

The new method – which has the potential to be used to power homes, buildings and cars in the future – is the result of a 10 year collaboration project between scientists from the University of Aberdeen alongside international partner laboratories.

Over 90% of the hydrogen currently generated across the globe is made using natural gas found in fossils fuels.

The main concern with this method is the generation of large amounts of carbon dioxide increasing the risk of global warming.

This new production method uses ethanol which is produced by the fermentation of crops and is therefore carbon neutral meaning any carbon dioxide produced is assimilated back into the environment and used by plants to grow.

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.

October 1, 2008

International Symposium on Alternative Energy

This conference begins tomorrow at Chicago State University.

The release:

International Symposium on Alternative Energy Opens October 2-3 at Chicago State University

CHICAGO, Oct. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A group of scientists and engineers from around the world will share their research on the latest alternative energy and technologies at a symposium co-sponsored by Chicago State University, October 2-3. The Center for Alternative Energy Technology’s second annual global symposium will focus on fuel cells, bio-fuels, solar cells, hydrogen (generation, separation and storage), wind power, and sustainable energy for urban and rural buildings. Sessions will be held in the university’s New Academic Library, 9501 South King Drive.

“The significance of this conference can not be over emphasized,” said CSU Professor of Physics Justin Akujieze. “Oil-based energy brings with it enormous pollution that puts our mother earth in danger. Already, signs of this danger can be seen with the overall trend in global warming resulting in the melting of the polar ice caps. This warming will produce changes in the weather that will affect prime agricultural regions and alter food production.”

Val R. Jensen, Vice President of Marketing & Environmental Programs for Commonwealth Edison, will be the keynote speaker on Thursday at 9:40 a.m. in the library’s fourth floor auditorium. Mr. Jensen is a nationally recognized expert in the field of energy efficiency, and has been affiliated with some of the most progressive programs in the United States.  He is leading various Com Ed environmental programs and initiatives, including the recently approved “Energy Efficiency Portfolio,” designed to boost Illinois into the number two spot for energy saved through voluntary customer usage reductions.

Several alternative energy experts from Chicago State University’s faculty are delivering research papers at the symposium: Fuel Cell Technology: Concise Module Introducing Students to Electrocatalysis and Integrating Fuel Cell Concepts into Undergraduate College Science (Justin Akujieze, LeRoy Jones II and Asare Nkansah); Sulfonated Dendritic Polymer Membranes for Fuel Cell (Setor Akati and Asare Nkansah); Using Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy to Investigate Electron-Transfer Processes in Dye Sensitized Solar Cells (Robert J. LeSuer and Nichole Squair); Computational Investigation of the Effect of Oxidation State on Conformational Ensembles: Applications to Possible Molecular Wires for Solar Energy Devices (A. Eastland, Q. Moore and K. L. Mardis)

In addition, representatives from various local and state government officials, including representatives from Senator Barack Obama’s and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.’s offices, will attend the symposium.

The first CAET Symposium was held in August 2007 at Chicago State. Leading scientists and engineers from the U.S., China, India, France, Canada and the U.K. contributed to the symposium. Activities included technical sessions and panel discussions focusing on the research and development of processes and materials for cost effective, real world energy production from alternative sources.

Chicago State University was founded as a teacher training school in Blue Island, Illinois on September 2, 1867. Today, the university is a fully accredited public, urban institution located on 161-picturesque acres in a residential community on Chicago’s Southside. CSU is governed by a Board of Trustees appointed by the Governor of Illinois. The university’s five colleges — Health Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, and Pharmacy — offer 36 undergraduate and 25 graduate and professional degree-granting programs. CSU also offers an interdisciplinary Honors College for students in all areas of study and has a Division of Continuing Education and Non-Traditional Programs that reaches out to the community with extension courses, distance learning and not-for-credit programs.

 
Source: Chicago State University

July 15, 2008

Nanotech improves hydrogen generation

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:28 pm

A more green method of creating hydrogen is outlined in this press release from Penn State:

Researchers generate hydrogen without the carbon footprint

A greener, less expensive method to produce hydrogen for fuel may eventually be possible with the help of water, solar energy and nanotube diodes that use the entire spectrum of the sun’s energy, according to Penn State researchers.

“Other researchers have developed ways to produce hydrogen with mind-boggling efficiency, but their approaches are very high cost,” says Craig A. Grimes, professor of electrical engineering. “We are working toward something that is cost effective.”

Currently, the steam reforming of natural gas produces most of our hydrogen. As a fuel source, this produces two problems. The process uses natural gas and so does not reduce reliance on fossil fuels; and, because one byproduct is carbon dioxide, the process contributes to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the carbon footprint.

Grimes’ process splits water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, and collects the products separately using commonly available titanium and copper. Splitting water for hydrogen production is an old and proven method, but in its conventional form, it requires previously generated electricity. Photolysis of water solar splitting of water has also been explored, but is not a commercial method yet.

Grimes and his team produce hydrogen from solar energy, using two different groups of nanotubes in a photoelectrochemical diode. They report in the July issue of Nano Lettersthat using incident sunlight, “such photocorrosion-stable diodes generate a photocurrent of approximately 0.25 milliampere per centimeter square, at a photoconversion efficiency of 0.30 percent.”

“It seems that nanotube geometry is the best geometry for production of hydrogen from photolysis of water,” says Grimes

In Grimes’ photoelectrochemical diode, one side is a nanotube array of electron donor material – n-type material – titanium dioxide, and the other is a nanotube array that has holes that accept electrons – p-type material – cuprous oxide titanium dioxide mixture. P and n-type materials are common in the semiconductor industry. Grimes has been making n-type nanotube arrays from titanium by sputtering titanium onto a surface, anodizing the titanium with electricity to form titanium dioxide and then annealing the material to form the nanotubes used in other solar applications. He makes the cuprous oxide titanium dioxide nanotube array in the same way and can alter the proportions of each metal.

While titanium dioxide is very absorbing in the ultraviolet portion of the sun’s spectrum, many p-type materials are unstable in sunlight and damaged by ultraviolet light, they photo-corrode. To solve this problem, the researchers made the titanium dioxide side of the diode transparent to visible light by adding iron and exposed this side of the diode to natural sunlight. The titanium dioxide nanotubes soak up the ultraviolet between 300 and 400 nanometers. The light then passes to the copper titanium side of the diode where visible light from 400 to 885 nanometers is used, covering the light spectrum.

The photoelectrochemical diodes function the same way that green leaves do, only not quite as well. They convert the energy from the sun into electrical energy that then breaks up water molecules. The titanium dioxide side of the diode produces oxygen and the copper titanium side produces hydrogen.

Although 0.30 percent efficiency is low, Grimes notes that this is just a first go and that the device can be readily optimized.

“These devices are inexpensive and because they are photo-stable could last for years,” says Grimes. “I believe that efficiencies of 5 to 10 percent are reasonable.”

Grimes is now working with an electroplating method of manufacturing the nanotubes, which will be faster and easier.

 

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Working with Grimes are Gopal K. Mor, Oomman K. Varghese and Karthik Shankar, research associates; Rudeger H. T. Wilke and Sanjeev Sharma, Ph.D. candidates; Thomas J. Latempa, graduate student, all at Penn State; and Kyoung-Shin Choi, associate professor of chemistry, Purdue University.

The U.S. Department of Energy supported this research.