Carbon Neutral Fuel

Posted by Chuck Harrell on May 21, 2015 10:00:00 AM

hydrogenLong considered one of the Holy Grails of clean environmentally friendly power, Hydrogen may finally be able to be used to power cars.   With its only emission being steam, damage to the atmosphere is non-existent. The trouble is traditionally Hydrogen is expensive to produce in the amount needed to power all the world's vehicles.

But now, researchers funded by Shell Oil, have discovered a method of getting hydrogen by converting the sugar stored in corn stover - stalks, cobs, and husks.   The stover material is mixed with a cocktail of ten enzymes that converts 100% of the sugars, whereas previous experiments were only capable of converting 30 to 60 percent.

This is a great leap forward because now they can use "dirty" biomass rather than refined sugars.   There are several challenges ahead not least of which is scale.  Professor Zhang told The Independent  "The next problem is to work on how to scale it up. But, if we receive further funding, I think in three to five years we should be able to build a bio reactor that is something like a gas station which can produce 200 kilos of hydrogen fuel a day.  This would be enough to re-fuel about 40 to 50 cars."

But now, they have established which enzymes work, it maybe possible to localize the process to work with other types of biomass such as banana skins.

With fuel and car manufacturers understanding that our reliance on fossil fuels can't last forever, Audi has started producing a new synthetic diesel fuel made from water, carbon, dioxide, and hydrogen.  E-diesel, while not being the first carbon neutral fuel, i.e., one which "can take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into something useful like fuel," it is a hugely important step in becoming carbon neutral.

The image below demonstrates how this works in practice and how their Dresden plant will produce 3,000 liters over a few months.


These developments in carbon neutral fuel are encouraging and these may in time end up replacing the difficulties associated with battery and fossil fuel cars.

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