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Electrolysis Catalyst Could Produce Inexpensive Hydrogen

Two Canadian researchers have announced a breakthrough that could produce catalysts for electrolysis at a fraction of current costs. The University of Calgary scientists are working to commecialize their discovery by 2014.

The FireWater Fuel (FFC) catalyst is more efficient at releasing breaking water into hydrogen and oxygen, and can be produced at a fraction of the cost of other exotic material catalysts. The FFC catalyst is based on ferrous oxide - rust. And, according to the researchers, the cost could be 1000 times lower than the cost of current materials.

With an efficient and inexpensive means for cracking water into hydrogen and oxygen, the feasibility increases for fuel cell batteries that can readily charge from renewable sources such as wind and solar when those sources are available and then discharge to provide electricity when demand is high.

The electrolytic catalyst is just one of the components that would be required for an entire system, but it has been an exepensive component of the system. With the FFC catalyst, hydrogen power takes another step towards being a greater part of the power mix in the coming years.

via: CBC News


Moving Toward a Fuel-Cell Future

A lot of emphasis is placed on batteries for electric vehicles, but fuel cells are another means of producing electricity that will get more attention as the technology develops further. Fuel cells offer efficient conversion of fuel to electricity. They also offer a way of combining electric drive with a system that can use portable fuels, and that may be able to overcome the "range anxiety" that is one of the obstacles to further acceptance of electric vehicles.

The good folks at Car Talk pointed us to their article about fuel cells covering both automotive fuel cells, as well as stationary fuel cells used in industrial settings. The US Department of Energy has a lot of programs dealing with fuel cells, and research is certainly moving ahead in this field in both the private and public sectors. Expect to see more about fuel cells in the coming years.

The Honda FCX Clarity, GM's Project Driveway and the Mercedes Benz F-Cell Hydrogen Electric Drive pilot programs are some of the first steps to fuel cell vehicles. But because of the very limited number of hydrogen fueling stations, hydrogen fuel cell vehicle drivers must also have their own "range anxiety" to contend with. While we usually think of fuel cells using hydrogen, other fuels such as methanol and natural gas can also be used in fuel cells. Compressed natural gas is more widely available than hydrogen, but it still takes some searching to find.


Combined Power Hydrogen Station

A hydrogen refueling station in Fountain Valley, California is not only providing fuel for vehicles, but is also helping to supply power to an adjacent industrial facility, and it is reported to be the first "tri-generation fuel cell and hydrogen station" in the world.

The hydrogen energy station is located next to a wastewater treatment facility, and biogas generated from that facility provides the feedstock for the system. The biogas is converted into hydrgen which is then available for refueling hydrogen vehicles as well as for a hydrogen fuel cell from FuelCell Energy which generates 250 kilowatts of electricity for the wastewater plant. Approximately 25 vehicles per day can be refueled from this station, in addition to the electrical power generated.



More Hydrogen from Sunlight

When there's a good idea around, there's more than one person pursuing it. And so it turns out that the artificial photosynthesis we covered recently isn't the only approach being pursued to produce hydrogen using only water and sunlight. A team of scientists from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University and others at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) are also working on a method to generate hydrogen from water using sunlight.

This form of photo-electrochemical (PEC) water splitting uses molybdenum sulfide as a catalyst rather than platinum.  Platinum has been known to work as a catalyst for PEC water splitting, but it is also a particularly rare and expensive mineral, which makes it problematic for widespread use. In addition to developing an inexpensive catalyst, the research has also worked on light absorbers to capture as much light energy as possible.

"The experimental researchers at DTU designed light absorbers that consist of silicon arranged in closely packed pillars, and dotted the pillars with tiny clusters of the molybdenum sulfide. When they exposed the pillars to light, hydrogen gas bubbled up—as quickly as if they'd used costly platinum," according to a press release.

Most hydrogen currently used in industrial and vehicular uses comes from processing natural gas to create hydrogen. This is, of course, a carbon emitting process, and does not offer a sustainable method to develop a hydrogen-based infrastructure for power and/or transportation. But, if any of these current methods turns out to be affordable, scalable, and safe, then the hydrogen future may be more than just a fanciful idea.

via: DOE Energy Blog


Artificial Leaves Increase Photosynthesis 10x

Synthetic photosynthesis has been around for more than a decade. Early versions were costly and short-lived, which made them impractical for any real-world application. Now, an MIT research team has developed a method of artificial photosynthesis to create and store energy, with 10 times the efficiency of plant photosynthesis.

The process is similar to plant-photosynthesis, but while plants store energy as sugars, this process uses the elemental hydrogen and oxygen as stored fuel. This makes it possible to have a solar power system that works beyond just the times when the sun is shining. As the inventor, Dr. Daniel Nocera of MIT says of the process, "Sunlight plus water equals fuel." Instead of trying to directly generate electric power, as with solar cells, this technology breaks down water into hydrogen and oxygen, which can be stored until needed and then be fed back into a fuel cell to produce electricity when it is needed.

The components needed for the catalysts used in this process are also abundantly available and inexpensive, nickel and cobalt, rather than relying on costly and difficult-to-obtain exotic minerals, which should also help with the scaling of the technology to commercial production levels. The process is simple enough that it can be done in a glass of water at room temperature which also helps simplify development.

Having a distributed and widely available source of hydrogen production could also help in advancing a hydrogen energy infrastructure and in making hydrogen powered vehicles a more reasonable transportation solution for the future.

link: Sun Catalytix

via: (no relationship to EcoGeek)

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