Renewable Fuel From Water

Physicists at Lancaster University (in UK) are developing methods of creating renewable fuel from water using quantum technologyRenewable hydrogen can already be produced by photoelectrolysis where solar power is used to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen. But, despite significant research effort over the past four decades, fundamental problems remain before this can be adopted commercially due to inefficiency and lack of cost-effectivenessDr Manus Hayne  from the Department of Physics said: “For research to progress, innovation in both materials development and device design is clearly needed.

The Lancaster study, which formed part of the PhD research of Dr Sam Harrison, and is published in Scientific Reports, provides the basis for further experimental work into the solar production of hydrogen as a renewable fuel. It demonstrates that the novel use of nanostructures could increase the maximum photovoltage generated in a photoelectrochemical cell, increasing the productivity of splitting water molecules.

To the authors’ best knowledge, this system has never been investigated either theoretically or experimentally, and there is huge scope for further work to expand upon the results presented here,” said Dr Haynes. “Fossil-fuel combustion releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing global climate change, and there is only a finite amount of them available for extraction. We clearly need to transition to a renewable and low-greenhouse-gas energy infrastructure, and renewable hydrogen is expected to play an important role.

Fossil fuels accounted for almost 90% of energy consumption in 2015, with absolute demand still increasing due to a growing global population and increasing industrialisationPhotovoltaic solar cells are currently used to convert sunlight directly into electricity but solar hydrogen has the advantage that it is easily stored, so it can be used as and when needed. Hydrogen is also very flexible, making it highly advantageous  for remote communities. It can be converted to electricity in a fuel cell, or burnt in a boiler or cooker just like natural gas. It can even be used to fuel aircraft.


More Durable Fuel Cells For Hydrogen Electric Car

Take a ride on the University of Delaware’s (UDFuel Cell bus, and you see that fuel cells can power vehicles in an eco-friendly way. In just the last two years, Toyota, BMW and Honda have released vehicles that run on fuel cells, and carmakers such as GM, BMW and VW are working on prototypes.  If their power sources lasted longer and cost less, fuel cell vehicles could go mainstream faster. Now, a team of engineers at UD has developed a technology that could make fuel cells cheaper and more durable.

Hydrogen-powered fuel cells are a green alternative to internal combustion engines because they produce power through electrochemical reactions, leaving no pollution behind. Materials called catalysts spur these electrochemical reactions. Platinum is the most common catalyst in the type of fuel cells used in vehicles. However, platinum is expensive — as anyone who’s shopped for jewelry knows. The metal costs around $30,000 per kilogram. Instead, the UD team made a catalyst of tungsten carbide, which goes for around $150 per kilogram. They produced tungsten carbide nanoparticles in a novel way, much smaller and more scalable than previous methods.

The material is typically made at very high temperatures, about 1,500 Celsius, and at these temperatures, it grows big and has little surface area for chemistry to take place on,” explains Vlachos, professor at the Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation (UD). “Our approach is one of the first to make nanoscale material of high surface area that can be commercially relevant for catalysis.”

The researchers made tungsten carbide nanoparticles using a series of steps including hydrothermal treatment, separation, reduction, carburization and more. The results are described in a paper published in Nature Communications.


Regular Hydrogen Electric Bus Lines Will Open In 2019

Koningshooikt – Van Hool, the independent Belgian bus, coach and industrial vehicle manufacturer has won a contract in Pau, France, to supply 8 Exqui.Cities, known as “tram-buses“, powered by hydrogen. The use of hydrogen buses is not only a first for France it is also a world first for a full BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system with 18-metre-long articulated tram-buses. This is the first time that hydrogen technology has been integrated as a power source in a tram-bus.

The brand new vehicle is an 18.62 metre-long articulated tram-bus with a 125 passenger capacity and an autonomy of around 300 km. The order of 8 Exqui.Cities will be delivered to the SMTU-PPP (Syndicat Mixte de Transports urbains – Pau Portes des Pyrénées) and the STAP (Société de Transport de l’Agglomération Paloise) in the second half of 2019.

The bus’s power source is an electric hybrid. On the one hand hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) are converted to electricity in the fuel cell using electrolysis in “real time” and, on the other hand, the lithium batteries and electric motors provide additional power wherever and whenever it is needed. The energy that is released when the vehicle’s brakes are applied is also re-used. The use of this technology results in the 0-emission of greenhouse gases or air polluting substances. The vehicle’s only emission is water vapour.

Additional advantages offered by hydrogen buses include their autonomy of over three hundred kilometres and fast re-fuelling (10 minutes). These buses therefore allow bus companies to reach the highest level of operational flexibility and productivity.


Hydrogen Electric Car Powered By Fuel Cells 4 Times More Efficient

Inspired by the humble cactus, a new type of membrane has the potential to significantly boost the performance of fuel cells and transform the electric vehicle industry. The membrane, developed by scientists from CSIRO (Australia) and Hanyang University in Korea, was described today in the journal Nature . The paper shows that in hot conditions the membrane, which features a water repellent skin, can improve the efficiency of fuel cells by a factor of four.

According to CSIRO researcher and co-author Dr Aaron Thornton, the skin works in a similar way to a cactus plant, which thrives by retaining water in harsh and arid environments.


Fuel cells, like the ones used in electric vehicles, generate energy by mixing together simple gases, like hydrogen and oxygen. However, in order to maintain performance, proton exchange membrane fuel cells – or PEMFCs – need to stay constantly hydrated,” Dr Thornton said.

At the moment this is achieved by placing the cells alongside a radiator, water reservoir and a humidifier. The downside is that when used in a vehicle, these occupy a large amount of space and consume significant power,” he added.

According to CSIRO researcher and co-author Dr Cara Doherty, the team’s new cactus-inspired solution offers an alternative. A cactus plant has tiny cracks, called stomatal pores, which open at night when it is cool and humid, and close during the day when the conditions are hot and arid. This helps it retain water,” Dr Doherty said. “This membrane works in a similar way. Water is generated by an electrochemical reaction, which is then regulated through nano-cracks within the skin. The cracks widen when exposed to humidifying conditions, and close up when it is drier. This means that fuel cells can remain hydrated without the need for bulky external humidifier equipment. We also found that the skin made the fuel cells up to four times as efficient in hot and dry conditions,” she added.

Professor Young Moo Lee from Hanyang University, who led the research, said that this could have major implications for many industries, including the development of electric vehicles.


Electric Car: Water Is The Future Fuel

Canadelectrochim, a non profit research and development Canadian company, have discovered a new non-platinum and nano-sized catalyst for the fuel cell based on Mother Nature which mimics the plant leaf.  The Polymer electrolyte membrane or proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) as an optimal solution for the future energy economy.
hydrogen fuel cellsThe PEMFC, where chemical energy is directly converted to electrical energy, provides a highly efficient alternative to a standard internal combustion engine. High power density, clean emissions (water), low temperature operation, rapid start-up and shutdown, and ability to use fuels from renewable sources are several reason why fuel cells such as PEMFC have attracted attention for large market applications, such as transportation. With these unique features, PEMFC will revolutionize the future energy economy.
PEMFC will indirectly make water our future fuel. Hydrogen and oxygen generated by splitting water using photosynthesis can be used as a fuel for PEMFC. PEMFC are leading candidates to power the space shuttle and other mobile applications even down to mobile phones, however, there are still some important issues that must be resolved in order for PEMFC to be commercially competitive. It is known that splitting a hydrogen molecule at the anode of fuel cell using platinum is relatively easy. Unfortunately however, splitting the oxygen molecule at the cathode of fuel cell (oxygen reduction reaction (, ORR)) is more difficult and this causes significant polarization losses (lowers efficiency of the fuel cell). An appropriate catalyst for this process has not been discovered and as of yet platinum is the best option. In the direction of operating the fuel cell using a cost effective and non-platinum based catalyst, is the work of Canadelectrochim.


EV: A Thin Film That Produces Oxygen and Hydrogen

A cobalt-based thin film serves double duty as a new catalyst that produces both hydrogen and oxygen from water to feed fuel cells, according to scientists at Rice University. This discovery may lower the cost of future hydrogen electric car.  The inexpensive, highly porous material invented by the Rice lab of chemist James Tour may have advantages as a catalyst for the production of hydrogen via water electrolysis. A single film far thinner than a hair can be used as both the anode and cathode in an electrolysis device.

The researchers led by Rice postdoctoral researcher Yang Yang reported their discovery  in Advanced Materials.

They determined their cobalt film is much better at producing hydrogen than most state-of-the-art materials and is competitive with (and much cheaper than) commercial platinum catalysts. They reported the catalyst also produced an oxygen evolution reaction comparable to current materials.


A side view of a porous cobalt phosphide/phosphate thin film created at Rice University. The robust film could replace expensive metals like platinum in water-electrolysis devices that produce hydrogen and oxygen for fuel cells. The scale bar equals 500 nanometers.

It is amazing that in water-splitting, the same material can make both hydrogen and oxygen,” Tour said. “Usually materials make one or the other, but not both.”

The researchers suggested applying alternating current from wind or solar energy sources to cobalt-based electrolysis could be an environmentally friendly source of hydrogen and oxygen.


Convert Hydrogen Into Electricity And Store It

Researching for clean energy generation,  scientists at Harvard University have demonstrated  that  a solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC) that converts hydrogen into electricity,  can also store electrochemical energy like a battery. This fuel cell can continue to produce power for a short time after its fuel has run out.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, for instance, would really benefit from this,” says lead author Quentin Van Overmeere, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). “When it’s impossible to refuel in the field, an extra boost of stored energy could extend the device’s life span significantly.” The finding, which appeared online in the journal Nano Letters, will be most important for small-scale, portable energy applications, where a very compact and lightweight power supply is essential and the fuel supply may be interrupted.