Hydrogen From Waste Materials
Environmentalists are continuously searching for green and clean fuel. Until now they have been putting a lot of energy and talent into hydrogen fuels because when hydrogen is burned, the only emission it makes is water vapor. So it is a great advantage that burning of hydrogen doesn’t produce carbon dioxide. Clearly, hydrogen is less of a pollutant in the air because it emits little tail pipe pollution. Engineers at the University of Leeds are working on a project keeping hydrogen in mind. They are developing an energy efficient, environmental-friendly hydrogen production system but with a difference. They are trying to extract hydrogen from waste materials. These materials can be vegetable oil or the glycerol by-product of bio-diesel. They are aspiring for the high purity hydrogen-based fuel that could be utilized for large-scale power production. They are also developing hydrogen cells for laptops or other gadgets. A grant of over £400k has been awarded to the University by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) within a consortium of 12 institutions known as SUPERGEN Sustainable Hydrogen Delivery.
Dr Valerie Dupont from the School of Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering (SPEME) shares his thoughts about future hydrogen fuels: “I can foresee a time when the processes we are investigating could help ensure that hydrogen is a mainstream fuel. We are investigating the feasibility of creating a uniquely energy efficient method of hydrogen production which uses air rather than burners to heat the raw product. Our current research will improve the sustainability of this process and reduce its carbon emissions.”
Hydrogen is largely considered as a clean and green alternative fuel but it is costly to manufacture. If we follow conventional methods of hydrogen production then it emits greenhouse gases. Engineers at the University of Leeds are focusing on these points. The system they are developing is called as Unmixed and Sorption-Enhanced Steam Reforming. They are combining waste products with steam to release hydrogen. This process is comparatively cheaper and cleaner than the existing methods and more energy efficient.
They are using a catalytic reactor for mixing a hydrocarbon-based fuel from plant or waste sources. Waste sources are mixed with steam that produces hydrogen and carbon dioxide and excess water as a byproduct. The water is condensed by cooling without much hassle and the carbon dioxide is removed in situ by a solid sorbent material.
Dr Dupont voices his concern about carbon content: “It’s becoming increasingly necessary for scientists devising new technologies to limit the amount of carbon dioxide they release. This project takes us one step closer to these goals – once we have technologies that enable us to produce hydrogen sustainably, the infrastructure to support its use will grow.”
“We firmly believe that these advanced steam reforming processes have great potential for helping to build the hydrogen economy. Our primary focus now is to ensure the materials we rely on – both to catalyse the desired reaction and to capture the carbon dioxide – can be used over and over again without losing their efficacy.”