New Catalyst Can Produce Hydrogen Efficiently from Biofuels

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This week is turning out to be a good one for the discovery of new catalysts. First we had catalysts to clean up toxic pollutants, and now researchers at Ohio State University say that they have developed a catalyst to make hydrogen from ethanol at 90% efficiency at only 350 C (a low temperature in biofuel industry standards). The low temperature will bring both cost and energy savings.

Ohio State University professor Umit Ozkan says that the catalyst is significantly less expensive than others being developed because it does not contain precious metals. Instead, it contains cerium oxide (a common ingredient in ceramics) and calcium.

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Ozkan believes that the catalyst could be used in a “distributed production” strategy. Instead of making hydrogen from biofuels at a central facility and taking it to gas stations—thus increasing energy expenditure—the catalyst could be stored inside reactors located at gas stations.

The OSU team is also looking at ways to use the catalyst with liquid biofuels besides ethanol.

While we have a long way to go before hydrogen cars become mass produced, this is an interesting step in making them just a little more viable.

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