Scientists convert low-grade sludge into high-value gas

November 28th, 2007 - 5:12 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, November 28 (ANI): University of Leeds scientists have developed a process that allows the transformation of low-grade sludge into high-value gas.

Dr Valerie Dupont of the Faculty of Engineering at the University says that the new process may render biodisel even more environmental friendly, besides making its production more economical.

Biodiesel, motor fuel derived from vegetable oil, is a renewable alternative to rapidly depleting fossil fuels. Due to its biodegradable and non-toxic nature, they are fast gaining importance.

However, for each molecule of biodiesel produced, another of low-value crude glycerol is generated, and its disposal presents a growing economic and environmental problem.

In the latest study, the scientists have shown how glycerol can be converted to produce a gas rich in hydrogen, which is in great demand for use in fertilisers, chemical plants and food production.

Scientist fraternity view hydrogen as a future clean replacement for hydrocarbon-based transport fuels, and many countries that are currently reliant on such fuels are investing heavily in hydrogen development programmes.

Dr. Dupont has revealed that the novel process involves the mixing of glycerol with steam at a controlled temperature and pressure. This, she says, results in the separation of waste products into hydrogen, water and carbon dioxide without any residue.

A special absorbent material filters out the carbon dioxide, which leaves a much purer product.

Hydrogen has been identified as a key future fuel for low carbon energy systems such as power generation in fuel cells and as a transport fuel. Current production methods are expensive and unsustainable, using either increasingly scarce fossil fuel sources such as natural gas, or other less efficient methods such as water electrolysis, said Dr Dupont.

Our process is a clean, renewable alternative to conventional methods. It produces something with high value from a low grade by-product for which there are few economical upgrading mechanisms. In addition, its a near carbon-neutral process, since the CO2 generated is not derived from the use of fossil fuels, she added.

She also said that the process was easily scalable to industrial production.

Dr. Dupont further said that the process could prove to be economically important, sustainable, and environmentally friendly way of meeting the growing demand for hydrogen. (ANI)

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