In the quest to find an efficient Hydrogen generationsystem, researchers at the University of Leeds have found a way to turnleftover french fry fat into fuel.
The new “hydrogen economy” is on the horizon – at this pointit’s simply a matter of time until a viable and effective method for creationof this element can be found - and the U of L is doing their part to speed itscoming along.
Right now, hydrogen fuel production is mostly done by using fossil fuels,steam, and a catalyst. This monster mixture bubbles up to over 800 degree Celsiusto produce both hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The trouble is a) its really damnhot and b) fossil fuels are not exactly the environment’s best friend. Sure, ourplanet gives rise to such things as coal and oil, but it’s not so keen on usburning it for our own amusement. Imagine if someone started burning your ownwaste on your body – doubt you’d be pleased.
So, Dr. Valerie Dupont and her team got to work and foundaway to turn waste into wonderful – from a fuel standpoint, at any rate.
While fat-based hydrogen fuel sources are nothing new,getting them to run efficiently is. Typically, the temperature required to extract hydrogen from leftover fat is far higher than that required when using fossil fuels, making the process a similar environmental nut-kick.
The extraction could be done at a lower temperature but thiswould cause the catalyst to quickly become polluted by the waste oil, loweringthe effectiveness of the process.
Very low conversion efficiency or highly environmentally damagingseemed to be the only choices until Dr. Dupont et al came along. They startedby re-designing the hydrogen production process in an effort to make itself-heating. Using a nickel catalyst, the team blasted it with air causing itto not only turn into nickel oxide, but undergo an exothermic reaction whichraised the temperature of the catalyst chamber by an extra 200 degrees.
In addition, the team developed a “sorbent” material thatallowed them to trap all of the carbon dioxide produced, leaving them withpure, unadulterated hydrogen and making the whole exercise carbon neutral.
Nickel Oxide: This is the good stuff.
Not only that – oh yes, it gets better – the process isportable. The nature of the reaction is such that it could be used as easily ina large reaction chamber or a gas station pump.
Just think of it – the greasy spoon next to the shady fuelstation on the highway could provide all the hydrogen needed to keepfuture-cars on the road.
Keep eating those fries, people – we have cars to fuel.
Source: University of Leeds