It seems that the US Department of Energy (DoE) can’t get enough of giving away cash to clean tech projects. Stories about the largesse of the DoE seem to crop up with all the regularity of editorials about Princess Diana/binge drinking/house price crashes in the Daily Mail, rubbish BBC sitcoms or chewing gum on Greenbang’s bus seat.
So naturally Greenbang was very excited to see someone actually reporting on what they’ve done with all that cash. And that someone was Umit Ozkan, professor at Ohio State University, who’s conjured up a new catalyst that can help make ethanol into hydrogen faster and more cheaply than its alternatives.
The catalyst, which the University refers to, rather spookily, as ‘dark grey powder’ is made from cerium oxide – a bog standard material you get in ceramics – instead of the precious metals that are normally used in this sort of thing.
The cost: precious metal catalyst – $9,000 an ounce. Grey powder catalyst – $9 a kilo.
And just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s lower quality, oh no – it can get hydrogen out of ethanol with 90 percent efficiency.
The end result? According to Ozkan, it’s a big old boost for the hydrogen cars out there.
“There are many practical issues that need to be resolved before we can use hydrogen as fuel — how to make it, how to transport it, how to create the infrastructure for people to fill their cars with it.
Our research lends itself to what’s called a ‘distributed production’ strategy. Instead of making hydrogen from biofuel at a centralized facility and transporting it to gas stations, we could use our catalyst inside reactors that are actually located at the gas stations. So we wouldn’t have to transport or store the hydrogen — we could store the biofuel, and make hydrogen on the spot.”