Hydrogen from soybean oil
Hydrogen from soybean oil

Homegrown fuel

Many consider hydrogen to be a perfect fuel. The waste product produced when it is burned is water. Hydrogen is a component contained in a variety of materials but figuring out how to cheaply extract that hydrogen is what one scientist refers to as the Holy Grail of 21st century energy.

U of Mn scientist, Lanny Schmidt, extracts hydrogen from biofuels

Lanny Schmidt, a Regents professor at the University of Minnesota, has invented such a process. It will produce hydrogen from renewable fuels like ethanol, sugar water, or soybean oil.

The reactor is deceptively simple in design. At the top is an automotive fuel injector that vaporizes and mixes the ethanol-water fuel. The vaporized fuel is injected into a tube that contains a porous plug coated with the catalyst. As the fuel passes through the plug, the carbon in the ethanol is burned, but the hydrogen is not. What emerges is mostly carbon dioxide, burnt carbon, and hydrogen gas. The reaction takes only 5 to 50 milliseconds and produces none of the flames and soot that usually accompany ethanol combustion. The reactor needs a small amount of heat to get going, but once it does, it sustains the reaction at more than 700 degrees C. University of MN

Minimize transportation costs

Also, his device is small and portable One of the thorniest economic problems of making biofuel from cornstalks or sawdust has been the cost of transporting the bulky materials to a distant factory. With Schmidt's invention, you wouldn't have to — the "factory" could be located on a farm or at a sawmill.

Electricity without powerlines

Converting biofuels into electricity requires fuel cells which generate electricty from hydrogen. Schmidt imagines a 1 kilowatt unit about the size of a washing machine where the electricity comes from a fuel cell powered by hydrogen, derived from ethanol or other biofuels. This could allow developing countries to eliminate the need for expensive powerlines into rural areas.

Sources: Pioneer Press and MPR

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

My opinion...... Funny how all of the gas companies still try to make people believe that hydrogen alone can not run cars.... People must love the Idea of dying so these people can have thier bilions..... every day.... See they just want to sink thier claws into a product untill it cant produce $ any more... How ever this is the most obsurd and obtrusive thing I have ever seen anyone do... Litteraly... The world gould be safer and more efficient but no... someone wants a billion dollars every day..... This is un american... If you argue it is than what kind of america do you believe in.... It was once believed that you could make a product to last forever... Move on to another product... but anymore it seems like people ablige these money hungary tirants that continue to threaten the evolution of technology that betters the world protecting that which is oposite... Denny Cline is one of the many who has made many things including vehicles run on hydrogen ONLY... hoowever just by sayinng ethenol.. might as well say cyonide... People are upset at smokers... but there are better things to be upset about...

posted on Tue, 06/05/2007 - 1:52pm

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