Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fuel Cells Might Get Hydrogen From Water, Organic Material

Date:
August 31, 2005
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
A novel technique for producing hydrogen from water and organic material has been found recently at Purdue University, a discovery that could help speed the creation of viable hydrogen storage technology. Though the method has not yet been evaluated for economic feasibility on a large scale, it could offer solutions to several problems facing developers of fuel cells.

Related Articles


Though the method has not yetbeen evaluated for economic feasibility on a large scale, chemist MahdiAbu-Omar said it could offer solutions to several problems facingdevelopers of fuel cells, which are looked upon as a potentialreplacement to fossil-fuel burning engines in automobiles. Thetechnique requires only water, a catalyst based on the metal rhenium(REE-nee-um) and an organic liquid called an organosilane, which can bestored and transported easily.

"We have discovered a catalystthat can produce ready quantities of hydrogen without the need forextreme cold temperatures or high pressures, which are often requiredin other production and storage methods," said Abu-Omar, an associateprofessor of chemistry in Purdue's College of Science. "It is possiblethat this technique could lead to fuel cells that are safe, efficientand not dependent on fossil fuels as their energy source."

Abu-Omar'sresearch team, which includes Purdue's Elon A. Ison and Rex A. Corbin,published their findings today (Wednesday, Aug. 31) in the Journal ofthe American Chemical Society.

Hydrogen is the most plentifulelement on Earth and, once isolated, is a clean-burning fuel thatproduces neither greenhouse gases nor toxic emissions. Because hydrogencan be used for electricity production, transportation and other energyneeds, many see a changeover to a "hydrogen economy" from our oil-basedone as the solution to global energy problems. But before hydrogen canbe used as fuel, it must be extracted from other substances that areoften fossil fuels, and then stored safely in sufficient quantities. Ifthese problems can be solved, hydrogen-powered generators, known asfuel cells, might replace internal combustion engines everywhere fromelectrical plants to cars.

Abu-Omar and his colleagues were notconcentrating on these problems when they began studying organosilanes,a group of organic molecules that have been slightly modified in thelaboratory. But as commonly happens in science, he said, a projectoften takes researchers in different directions than originallyanticipated.

"Initially, we were concerned with finding usefulcatalysts to convert these silicon-based fluids into silanols, anothertype of substance that is valuable in the chemical industry," he said."It's the sort of work chemists do all the time, and it's usually ofinterest only to other chemists. But sometimes the byproducts ofconversions are as interesting as what you wanted in the first place."

Abu-Omar'steam took a compound based on rhenium, a comparatively rare metal oftenobtained while mining copper, and added it to the organosilane in thepresence of water. Over the course of an hour, the organosilane changedcompletely into silanol, leaving the water and rhenium catalystunchanged. But the team also noticed there was a gas bubbling from themixture.

"It turned out to be pure hydrogen," Abu-Omar said. "Thereaction is not only efficient at creating silanol, but it alsogenerates hydrogen at a high rate in proportion to the amount of water."

Theteam estimates that about 7 gallons each of water and organosilanecould combine to produce 6 1/2 pounds of hydrogen, which could power acar for approximately 240 miles.

"The big question is, of course,whether it would be economically viable to create organosilane fuels inthe quantities necessary to power a world full of cars," Abu-Omar said."As of right now, there simply isn't enough demand to make more thansmall volumes of this liquid, and while it's a relatively easy process,it's not dirt cheap either."

But, Abu-Omar speculated, producingorganosilanes in larger quantities would bring the price down, and thebyproduct – silanol – also could be recycled or sold to lessen theoverall cost.

"On today's chemical market, silanol is even moreexpensive than organosilanes are, but their value would of coursedecline as well if there were suddenly millions of gallons of them onthe market," he said. "These are the sorts of questions that economistswould have to look at, and we have other questions of our own, such aswhether these reactions can be carried out on naturally occurringhydrogen sources."

Abu-Omar said this question might prove to be the more relevant one as investigations continue.

"Ithink the big point here is that hydrogen can be produced from waterand a form of organic matter," he said. "If this rhenium-based catalystcan do the trick on organosilanes, perhaps we can find other catalyststhat can generate hydrogen from garbage, or from biomass left over fromthe harvest."

The current findings, he said, demand that the method be scrutinized more carefully.

"Fornow, we've demonstrated the initial premise that we can produce andstore hydrogen on demand with this method," he said. "It's a greatstart, but we need to know more about the economic and ecological priceof doing this on a larger scale."

Abu-Omar is affiliated withPurdue's new Energy Center in Discovery Park. The center will focus ondeveloping economically and environmentally sound energy sources, andon helping to change policies and perceptions about the way we useenergy. More than 75 campus experts in disciplines from engineering,science, agriculture and liberal arts will contribute to the effort.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "Fuel Cells Might Get Hydrogen From Water, Organic Material." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 August 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050831071741.htm>.
Purdue University. (2005, August 31). Fuel Cells Might Get Hydrogen From Water, Organic Material. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050831071741.htm
Purdue University. "Fuel Cells Might Get Hydrogen From Water, Organic Material." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050831071741.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A touch-free phone developed in Israel enables the mobility-impaired to operate smart phones with just a movement of the head. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Building Google Into Cars

Building Google Into Cars

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Google's next Android version could become the standard that'll power your vehicle's entertainment and navigation features, Reuters has learned. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) What to buy an experienced photographer or video shooter? There is some strong gear on the market from Nikon and GoPro. The AP's Ron Harris takes a closer look. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) US President Barack Obama says that construction of the Keystone pipeline would have 'very little impact' on US gas prices and believes there are 'more direct ways' to create construction jobs. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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