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.