Turning Greenhouse Gas into Hydrogen Fuel to Power Vehicles, Economy

By: | July 22nd, 2016

BMW Hydrogen Fuel

BMW Hydrogen Fuel (Image Courtesy www.bmw.com)

Recently, a hydrogen fuel cell-powered racing car ran laps around the Le Mans circuit signaling how close we may be to hydrogen fuel-powered automobiles and perhaps a hydrogen-based economy. One current reality that could speed the adoption of hydrogen is a high concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. To date, one of the problems of creating alternate fuels such as hydrogen has been the release of equally or more harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

IndustryTap has reported on novel systems such as the “artificial leaf” which uses solar power to split water and create hydrogen fuel without any pollution, but this technology is in its infancy. Another key for hydrogen-powered cars and a hydrogen-powered economy is developing a hydrogen fuel that can utilize the current gasoline infrastructure to pump fuel to hydrogen vehicles.

Creating Clean Hydrogen Fuel from Greenhouse Gases

According to researchers at USC’s Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute (LHRC), the time is not far off when hydrogen will power fuel-cell vehicles and smartphones.

In a paper, “A Prolific Catalyst for Dehydrogenation of Need Formic Acid” in Nature Communications, the team, led by Travis J. Williams and colleagues, introduces a method for turning greenhouse gas into hydrogen fuel without creating more pollution. The trick is to recycle carbon dioxide using “dehydrogenation” thereby creating “neat” or clean formic acid which carries the hydrogen.

According to the paper, “Formic acid is a promising energy carrier for on-demand hydrogen generation. Because the reverse reaction is also feasible, formic acid is a form of stored hydrogen. Here we present a robust, reusable iridium catalyst that enables hydrogen gas release from neat formic acid. This catalysis works under mild conditions in the presence of air, is highly selective and affords millions of turnovers. While many catalysts exist for both formic acid dehydrogenation and carbon dioxide reduction, solutions to date on hydrogen gas release rely on volatile components that reduce the weight content of stored hydrogen and/or introduce fuel cell poisons. These are avoided here. The catalyst utilizes an interesting chemical mechanism, which is described on the basis of kinetic and synthetic experiments.”

In the following video, Travis J. Williams, Associate Professor of Chemistry explains the simple process of converting greenhouse gas into hydrogen.

David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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