Many hopes are placed on the hydrogen economy, but for all those hopes, there sure aren't a lot of good ways to get hydrogen without burning a bunch of fossil fuels. But research being done at the University of Minnesota has efficiently created hydrogen from non-volatile sources such as Soybean Oil and dissolved glucose. This new process does away with the need to convert raw bio-mass to something volatile (ethanol / methane / etc) in order to produce hydrogen.
Small droplets of the non-volatile biomass are sprayed onto a super-hot metal catalyst that converts the carbohydrates (glucose) to carbon monoxide and hydrogen extremely rapidly. The breakup of the molecules produces a lot of heat (think of burning vegetation) which actually keeps the catalyst hot so it requires no external heating. The hydrogen can then be captured for fuel, and the CO can either be captured and used as a mixing agent for the combustion of the hydrogen, or converted to CO2 (which is the CO2 that the vegetation fixed in the first place, so it is a carbon neutral process.)
If this can be scaled up and cost effectively utilized, it could easily be the technology that makes the hydrogen economy an actual possibility. And if it could be adapted to convert cellulosic biomass, like agricultural and yard waste, into hydrogen and CO2, then we would have a technology that would change the face of the world forever.
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