Friday, August 22, 2008

Hydrogen Made From Ethanol With 90% Efficiency Using Inexpensive Catalyst


A few weeks ago MIT announced that one of its researchers had made a major breakthrough in the production of hydrogen at room temperature using a cobalt and phosphorus catalyst.

Now comes word that researchers at Ohio State University have made another interesting discovery: A new way to produce hydrogen from biofuels using an inexpensive catalyst. It's not exactly at room temperature—the process runs at 660 degrees Fahrenheit (350°C)—but the cerium oxide catalyst costs about $9 a kilogram and makes hydrogen from ethanol with 90% efficiency.

How Does it Work?
According to OSU the process works like this:

The process starts with a liquid biofuel such as ethanol, which is heated and pumped into a reactor, where the catalyst spurs a series of chemical reactions that ultimately convert the liquid to a hydrogen-rich gas.

At the end of the process, waste gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and methane are removed, and the hydrogen is purified. To make the process more energy-efficient, heat exchangers capture waste heat and put that energy back into the reactor. Methane recovered in the process can be used to supply part of the energy.

Distributed Production for Hydrogen
Umit Ozkan, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at OSU believes that this research offers a solution to the nagging problem of transporting hydrogen as well. She believes that by using this method a distributed production strategy could develop.

Instead of making hydrogen from biofuel at a centralized facility and transporting it to gas stations, we could use our catalyst inside reactors that are actually located at the gas stations. So we wouldn't have to transport or store the hydrogen—we could store the biofuel and make hydrogen on the spot.

Though ethanol has been the only biofuel used in this process so far, Ozkan's team is investigating how to apply this process to other liquid biofuels as well.

:: Ohio State University

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