Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Another Clean Way to Fight Big Oil - Science

Until there's nothing left of Earth but rock, there will always be biomass and researchers have discovered a clean way to generate hydrogen from it.  Once again, good night, Irene, for Big Oil.  (Science Daily:  Scientists harness solar power to produce clean hydrogen from biomass)

The problem to solve:

One of the challenges facing modern society is what it does with its waste products.  As natural resources decline in abundance, using waste for energy is becoming more pressing for both governments and business.

Biomass has been a source of heat and energy since the beginning of recorded history.  The planet's oil reserves are derived from ancient biomass which has been subjected to high pressures and temperatures over millions of years.  Lignocellulose is the main component of plant biomass and up to now its conversion into hydrogen has only been achieved through a gasification process which uses high temperatures to decompose it fully.

- SD

Biomass typically goes into the fireplace where we burn it for energy.  That works but it's polluting and extremely inefficient.  The hippies who love wood-burning fireplaces need to learn a little more since it was hippies who also loved VW Beetles in the Sixties and those vehicles are some of the worst polluters which ever took to the road.

The new technology relies on a simple photocatalytic conversion process. Catalytic nanoparticles are added to alkaline water in which the biomass is suspended.  This is then placed in front of a light in the lab which mimics solar light.  The solution is ideal for absorbing this light and converting the biomass into gaseous hydrogen which can then be collected from the headspace.  The hydrogen is free of fuel-cell inhibitors, such as carbon monoxide, which allows it to be used for power.

- SD

Watson:  simple?

So long as it's simple for them, we only need to see whether it works.

The team used different types of biomass in their experiments. Pieces of wood, paper and leaves were placed in test tubes and exposed to solar light. The biomass didn't require any processing beforehand.

The technology was developed in the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Sustainable SynGas Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. The head of the laboratory, Dr. Erwin Reisner, adds: "Our sunlight-powered technology is exciting as it enables the production of clean hydrogen from unprocessed biomass under ambient conditions. We see it as a new and viable alternative to high temperature gasification and other renewable means of hydrogen production.

- SD

Apparently it does work so now the question is scaling it large enough to get the big jobs done.

Of course they're onto that.

Future development can be envisioned at any scale, from small scale devices for off-grid applications to industrial-scale plants, and we are currently exploring a range of potential commercial options."

- SD

Let's see how big this thing gets, Charlie.

Watson:  do you want the landfills all over the country to become sources of energy?

Why not.  They're sure not good for anything else and this is the technology which may be able to do it.

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