Can cars run on hydrogen made from plant sugars? | MNN


Changing an energy-dense liquid like petroleum with various fuels is less complicated mentioned than performed. From the hidden carbon footprint of ethanol to some serious questions about the sustainability of hydrogen fuel cells, many alternative choices include their very own important environmental baggage.

Nonetheless, if we’re going to reverse the worst impacts of local weather change, we’ll have to search out our strategy to low-carbon fuels quick. One potential path ahead lies within the conversion of the sugars present in crops into hydrogen gasoline utilizing novel or engineered enzymes. Till lately, nonetheless, yields of hydrogen from such efforts have been low and prices have been too excessive. In 2013, nonetheless, a crew of Virginia Tech researchers printed analysis suggesting a possible breakthrough on this entrance, having developed a method to generate low-cost hydrogen gasoline from nearly any supply of biomass. 

This is how Virginia Tech Information explained the significance: “Our new course of may assist finish our dependence on fossil fuels,” mentioned Y.H. Percival Zhang, an affiliate professor of organic methods engineering within the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the School of Engineering. “Hydrogen is without doubt one of the most vital biofuels of the long run.”

Zhang and his crew have succeeded in utilizing xylose, probably the most plentiful easy plant sugar, to supply a big amount of hydrogen that beforehand was attainable solely in idea. Zhang’s technique may be carried out utilizing any supply of biomass.

The method generates nearly no greenhouse gases, not like earlier energy-intensive strategies for producing hydrogen, similar to the usage of pure fuel. It makes use of enzymes artificially remoted from microorganisms that usually thrive at excessive temperatures to transform xylose, the second most plentiful plant sugar, into hydrogen. Researchers instructed they may see the expertise commercialized in as little as three years. Previous research by James Swartz of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University has instructed that enzymatic hydrogen manufacturing may yield 10-fold larger gasoline worth conversions than present biomass-to-ethanol applied sciences. 

After all any change to hydrogen gasoline cells should compete with the rapid advance of battery electric vehicles and solar power, each of which have gone from marginal applied sciences to critical contenders in only a few brief years. 

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