Catalyst to convert ethanol into hydrogen fuel cheaper

August 21st, 2008 - 1:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 21 (IANS) An inexpensive new catalyst will ensure efficient conversion of ethanol and other biofuels into hydrogen that will be an efficient, cheap and easy source of energy.Ohio State University professor Umit Ozkan informed that the new catalyst is much cheaper than others being developed, because it does away with reliance on precious metals like platinum or rhodium.

“Rhodium is used most often for this kind of catalyst, and it costs around $9,000 an ounce. Our catalyst costs around $9 a kg,” he said. The catalyst could help make hydrogen-powered cars more practical in the future, she said.

“There are many practical issues that need to be resolved before we can use hydrogen as fuel - how to make it, how to transport it, how to create the infrastructure for people to fill their cars with it,” Ozkan explained.

“Our research lends itself to what’s called a ‘distributed production’ strategy. 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.

“Precious metals have high catalytic activity and - in most cases - high stability, but they’re also very expensive. So our goal from the outset was to come up with a precious-metal-free catalyst.

“Whenever a process works at a lower temperature, that brings energy savings and cost savings,” Ozkan said. “Also, if the catalyst is highly active and can achieve high hydrogen yields, we don’t need as much of it. That will bring down the size of the reactor, and its cost.”

The new dark grey powder is made from tiny granules of cerium oxide - a common ingredient in ceramics - and calcium, covered with even smaller particles of cobalt.

It produces hydrogen with 90 percent efficiency at around 350 degrees Celsius - a low temperature by industrial standards.

Ozkan and her co-workers presented the study Wednesday at the American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia.

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