Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Flower Power' Cars Could Be In Your Future

Date:
August 26, 2004
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Researchers in England have found a promising method for producing hydrogen from sunflower oil, a development that could lead to cleaner and more efficient hydrogen production for powering automobile fuel cells as well as homes, factories and offices.

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 25 — Researchers in England have found a promising method for producing hydrogen from sunflower oil, a development that could lead to cleaner and more efficient hydrogen production for powering automobile fuel cells as well as homes, factories and offices. The development was described today at the 228th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Fuel cells show much promise for supplying the energy needs of the future, and their demand is growing with increasing use of the technology. But one of their drawbacks, experts say, is that the hydrogen required to run them generally comes from the burning of fossil fuels, which generate pollutants such as carbon monoxide and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane.

"Producing hydrogen from sunflower oil could provide a more environmentally-friendly alternative by reducing these pollutants while offering an abundant, low-cost and renewable resource that reduces dependence on foreign oil," says the study's lead researcher, Valerie Dupont, Ph.D., an energy engineer with the University of Leeds in England.

Dupont and her collaborators developed an experimental hydrogen generator that uses only sunflower oil, air and water vapor along with two highly-specialized catalysts — one nickel-based, the other carbon-based — that are alternatively used to store and then release oxygen or carbon dioxide while producing hydrogen intermittently. The new process does not involve the burning of any fossil fuels, they say.

The sunflower oil used is the same type found on grocery shelves. "We would happily toss our salad with it," says the researcher, who adds that the process can also work with other types of vegetable oils.

In the prototype device, which can fit on a standard lab bench, water and oil are pumped into the unit and passed through a pre-heater to vaporize them. Through a process called steam reforming, the mixture is broken down in the presence of heat to generate carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane and carbon monoxide.

The catalysts, which are key to the process, orchestrate a series of chemical maneuvers that ultimately result in an increased hydrogen yield. First, one of the catalysts (the nickel-based unit) absorbs the oxygen from the air and this interaction heats up the reactor bed of the device. Simultaneously, in the presence of heat, another catalyst (a carbon-based adsorbent) releases any carbon dioxide previously trapped in the device.

Once the reactor bed is hot enough and all the carbon dioxide has been released and expelled from the reactor, the mixture of vaporized oil and water are then fed into the reactor chamber. The heat from the reactor bed breaks down the carbon-hydrogen bonds in the vaporized oil. Water (steam) binds its oxygen to the carbon, releasing its hydrogen and yielding carbon monoxide. When carbon monoxide and water vapor are in the presence of each other, they tend to form carbon dioxide and hydrogen. This overall process results in a cyclical production of hydrogen, Dupont says, adding that the process can be modified to allow continuous hydrogen production.

In laboratory studies, the researchers achieved a hydrogen purity of 90 percent, which is more efficient than current hydrogen generators that only achieve a hydrogen purity of about 70 percent. The byproducts of the sunflower oil transformation, carbon dioxide and methane, are generated in roughly equal proportions, the researchers say.

"Currently the generator is heated electrically, but in the near future all the heat necessary to carry out the reaction of steam with oil vapor will come from the intake of oxygen on the nickel catalyst," Dupont says.

The experimental generator has not been used to supply hydrogen to any fuel cells yet, but a similar device could be refined to equip fuel stations with large-scale hydrogen supplies, which consumers can ultimately feed into the tanks of vehicles containing fuel cells, the researchers say.

Hydrogen is a key component of fuel cells, where it reacts with oxygen to generate electricity, with water as the main emission. Major automobile manufacturers are quickly developing fuel cell technology, but mass production of such vehicles is expected to be many years away, experts say. Fuel cells also can be used to provide electricity and heat to buildings.

Funding for this study was provided by the United Kingdom's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Dupont's collaborators in this study were chemists Andrew Ross and Jenny Jones, of the University of Leeds; Martyn V. Twigg, European Technology Director at Johnson Matthey in Royston, England; and Ian Hanley, a doctoral candidate at the University of Leeds.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with a multidisciplinary membership of more than 159,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishes numerous scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "'Flower Power' Cars Could Be In Your Future." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 August 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/08/040826090439.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2004, August 26). 'Flower Power' Cars Could Be In Your Future. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/08/040826090439.htm
American Chemical Society. "'Flower Power' Cars Could Be In Your Future." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/08/040826090439.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Stocks Hit All-Time High as Fed Holds Steady

Stocks Hit All-Time High as Fed Holds Steady

AP (Sep. 17, 2014) The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday that it plans to keep a key interest rate at a record low because a broad range of U.S. economic measures remain subpar. Stocks hit an all-time high on the news. (Sept. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) MIT developed a robot modeled after a cheetah. It can run up to speeds of 10 mph, though researchers estimate it will eventually reach 30 mph. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) Automobile manufacturer Local Motors created a drivable electric car using a 3-D printer. Printing the body only took 44 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins