Scientists soon to turn water into inexpensive hydrogen fuel
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Human mind has been working for too long to try and use water, available plentiful almost for free, as fuel to power their vehicles and save money and time. But so far they have not succeeded. However, in the process, scientists have come near to use water particle hydrogen to power vehicles.
Soon, rather very soon, we can and will have a very cheap fuel for our costly vehicles and the scientists are at work for that invention.
Until now, cars that run on water have been out of reach. Electrolysis, the process of breaking H2O (hydrogen and oxygen) into hydrogen and oxygen gases by passing an electric current through water, and other possible methods have been prohibitively expensive or difficult.
Scientists have cleared one hurdle on the path to deriving hydrogen fuel from water affordably, a breakthrough that could drastically change the way we power vehicles.
Hydrogen has the potential to fuel incredibly environmentally clean cars. But, however, making that fuel hasn’t been so efficient or economical so far. Pure hydrogen gas does not occur naturally on Earth, so scientists must devise ways to separate hydrogen from naturally occurring compounds, like H2 O
But a team of scientists have come up with a different mechanism to produce hydrogen fuel from water. These researchers have created a biomaterial that catalyzes the splitting of the water elements, which they describe in a paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry.
The biomaterial, called P22-Hyd, is made up of a modified enzyme, hydrogenase, protected within the protein shell of a bacterial virus. Taken together, the material forms a nano-reactor that catalyzes hydrogen formation 150 times more efficiently than the enzyme would in its original form.
The mechanism goes both ways. P22-Hyd breaks the chemical bonds in H2 O to produce hydrogen and oxygen, but it can also combine the two gases to generate power.
That reversal is how hydrogen fuel cell cars work. Hydrogen gas is mixed with atmospheric oxygen, generating electricity that powers the car’s motor or motors. The only byproduct is water vapor, unlike standard gasoline fueled cars which produce toxic fumes in addition to multiple greenhouse gases. “The reaction runs both ways — it can be used either as a hydrogen production catalyst or as a fuel cell catalyst,” study lead author Trevor Douglas, of Indiana University Bloomington said in a news release.
P22-Hyd could make hydrogen fuel production more affordable and environmentally friendly than other catalysts used. Platinum is one such material. The rare metal is expensive and is often used in high-end hydrogen-fueled cars. “This material is comparable to platinum, except it’s truly renewable,” Dr. Douglas said. “You don’t need to mine it; you can create it at room temperature on a massive scale using fermentation technology; it’s biodegradable. It’s a very green process to make a very high-end sustainable material.”
Scientists have also looked to sources of hydrogen other than H2 O to fuel hydrogen fuel cell cars. A team of researchers reported a new way of producing hydrogen from biomass in a paper in April 2015. Their method used corn debris, including cobs, husks and stalks. That corn biomass produces hydrogen and carbon dioxide as it decays.
Using this discarded organic matter could make hydrogen fuel a more viable possibility. The Christian Science Monitor’s Joseph Dussault reports:
Cost effective and productive in volume, this method could breathe new life into the hydrogen car. Biomass relies on readily available (and usually discarded) material, which reduces initial fuel costs. The method also increases the reaction rate three times over – as such, the fuel can be produced in smaller, gas station-sized facilities, further driving down cost. These facilities could be stationed alongside processing plants, potentially spurring local industries.
There are hopeful signs global energy is getting cleaner now.
There are seven billion people and counting on Earth, and our energy needs are only growing. But as the world population grows, so does the threat of climate change and environmental harm – particularly if that ever-growing population relies on vast natural resources and the burning of heat-trapping fossil fuels.
That’s not to say there isn’t hope, though. Even in an era full of warnings that humans are negatively impacting the planet, governments, individuals, and the private sector have made real progress toward being better stewards of the planet. And much of that progress has come in the world of energy, where scientific and technological advances are improving how we use energy, where we get it from, and how it impacts our surroundings.
Those advances could go a long way toward solving climate change, but there’s a lot of work left to be done. If humans continue using fossil fuels at current rates, scientists say that the world will relatively quickly burn through its “carbon budget” – the amount of carbon humans can put into the atmosphere without raising temperatures to dangerous levels.
“We may have just about 30 years left until the world’s carbon budget is spent if we want a likely chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees C,” Kelly Levin, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute, a global think tank, wrote last year in a blog post. “Breaching this limit would put the world at increased risk of forest fires, coral bleaching, higher sea level rise, and other dangerous impacts.”
But given advances in renewable energy, battery storage, government regulations, and more, there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic that the world is making progress toward a cleaner energy future.
Clean energy is expanding worldwide, and wind and solar in particular are driving the shift from carbon-intensive fossil fuels to renewable sources. This could be a banner year, particularly in the USA. “In 2015, the US will install more renewables than ever before, with 18 new gigawatts (GW) coming online,” according to an analysis released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance in April 2015. “BNEF forecasts new solar installations to reach an all-time annual high of 9.1GW in 2015 – with half of that built in California. Wind build should total 8.9GW (third-most all-time) with a third of that coming in Texas.”
And though utility-scale solar power will provide only about 0.7 percent of total US electricity generation in 2016, solar’s footprint is growing, and many homes and businesses are installing solar panels to produce some of their own electricity.
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