Researchers develop innovative hydrogen fuel production systemMarch 17, 2017
University of Cambridge finds a new way to use biomass to produce hydrogen fuel
Scientists from the University of Cambridge have developed an innovative new method of producing hydrogen fuel. The method involves combining ambient sunlight and biomass, such as paper, wood, and leaves, in order to generate hydrogen. Converting biomass into hydrogen has long been an interest for the renewable energy community, but relatively few endeavors have managed to find success. Notably, the new method developed by scientists at the University of Cambridge focuses on biomass waste.
New system could leverage biomass waste effectively
Using biomass waste to produce hydrogen has been a very difficult process. This is because doing so involves a focus on lignocellulose. According to Doctor Moritz Kuehnel, with the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, lignocellulose is “nature’s equivalent to armored concrete.” Lignocellulose is meant to give plantlife mechanical stability and protect them from natural degradation. As such, it is very difficult to use in hydrogen fuel production methods. The research team at the University of Cambridge has developed a system that may be able to overcome this problem.
New system can leverage sunlight to produce hydrogen fuel
The new system leverages a photocatalyst in an alkaline water solution. The photocatalyst is comprised of various nanoparticles. When exposed to sunlight, either natural or synthetic, the photocatalyst triggers any biomass particles present in its alkaline solution to produce gaseous hydrogen. Notably, the hydrogen produced using this method is free from fuel cell inhibitors, such as carbon monoxide. This means that the hydrogen can be used by a fuel cell to generate electricity in an efficient and sustainable manner.
New system could eventually be used for industrial purpose once scaled-up
The research team intends to bring their new hydrogen fuel production system to the commercial market at some point in the future. This is meant to be accomplished through Cambridge Enterprise, the commercial branch of the University of Cambridge. The research team predicts that the new system could be effective for small-scale hydrogen fuel production, but it could be scaled up for industrial use in the future.