Cambridge scientists produce clean hydrogen from biomass
13 Mar 2017
Scientists at the University of Cambridge claim to have developed a method that uses nanoparticles and solar power to produce clean hydrogen from biomass.
The method relies on catalytic nanoparticles that are added to alkaline water in which the biomass is suspended.
This is then placed in front of a light in the lab, which mimics solar light, the researchers said.
The solution is designed to absorb the light and convert the biomass into gaseous hydrogen, which can then be collected from the headspace.
The researchers have claimed that the hydrogen is free of fuel-cell inhibitors, such as carbon monoxide, which allows it to be used for power.
David Wakerley, joint lead author of the study, said: "There's a lot of chemical energy stored in raw biomass, but it's unrefined, so you can't expect it to work in complicated machinery, such as a car engine.
“Our system is able to convert the long, messy structures that make up biomass into hydrogen gas, which is much more useful. We have specifically designed a combination of catalyst and solution that allows this transformation to occur using sunlight as a source of energy.
“With this in place we can simply add organic matter to the system and then, provided it's a sunny day, produce hydrogen fuel."
The research team, which also includes Erwin Reisner and Moritz Kuehnel, said it is currently exploring a range of potential commercial options for upscaling the technology.
A full account of the research has been published in the journal Nature Energy.